university admission

Who should go to university?

 Everyone, or just enough people to fill skilled jobs?

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 We have more people going to university in Australia than ever before. In 1971 only 2% of the population over 15 years old held a Bachelor’s degree, in 2013 it was 25%. Last year a whopping 1,149,300 people were enrolled in a Bachelor’s degree or above.  However, graduate employment rates are falling. This leads many to ask whether too many people are going to university. Should everyone go to university or just the correct number to be able to fill highly skilled jobs in Australia?  asks Leo Goedegebuure (University of Melbourne), writing in The Conversation.

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 More education, the more benefits for all

Philosophically, I am all in favour of providing a university experience to as many students as possible. The positive external effects of a highly educated population include reduced crime rates and better health outcomes with associated lower public costs. Equally, it leads to stronger societies and communities, stronger democracies and, although slowly, it helps in reducing socio-economic inequalities.

And we should not forget the formative impact that “going to college” has on individuals, ranging from personal growth to greater job satisfaction once graduated.

While universal higher education is a positive goal in many aspects, not everyone will have the ability necessary to complete a degree. A recent report to the US Senate provided a painful reminder that universal tertiary education is not only about enrolling students, but equally about making sure they graduate and that subsequently they are in a position to repay their loans. Repayment, as the data shows, goes hand in hand with completion and finding a job.

Ensuring their students can complete the degrees they are enrolled in is universities’ first responsibility.

While some may look at graduate employment rates and contend we have an oversupply of graduates, I fundamentally disagree. Not only is the middle- and long-term outlook for university graduates still pretty good, in a knowledge-based economy there is no limit on the level of educational attainment. The higher and the better educated a country, the more competitive it becomes.

Graduates should have broad skills. VelkrO/Flickr, CC BY

This point is illustrated by the recent report of the World Economic Forum. The report is based on a classic economic model in which a sound tertiary education system is a prerequisite for a skilled, well-educated workforce and a vibrant innovation system, which are the two pillars of all advanced economies.

Graduates need to be broadly educated

A well-educated workforce doesn’t mean narrowly trained graduates in highly specialised and professional positions. Sure, we do need those – as anyone undergoing surgery or spending some time in a dentist chair will attest. But for an innovative society that is strongly service-based we need well-educated graduates who are the motor for process and product innovation.

This, in turn, means “T-shaped” graduates who possess in-depth disciplinary knowledge (the vertical bar of the T) but who also combine this with skills and abilities not specific to just one area (the horizontal top bar of the T).

These well-educated people can work in teams and have a capacity for deep listening. They can communicate and are instilled with an entrepreneurial spirit that enables them to create new jobs rather than venturing out to a pre-populated labour market.

This then is the second responsibility that is bestowed on universities. It is not only about completion but completing with the right set of skills and abilities.

This is not to say that nothing is happening. Far from it.

To take some random examples, over the last four years the University of Technology, Sydney almost doubled its enrolments in first-year chemistry from 650 to over 1,000, accompanied by significantly improved pass rates and reduced attrition. Innovation and design labs exploring design thinking are popping up across the country.

But, as a sector, many of our approaches to teaching and learning are still traditional and many are antiquated.

This needs to change if we truly see university education as part of the engine room of a competitive, innovative society in the most dynamic socio-economic region of the world. This is not only about resourcing, it also is about “having skin in the game” as the US Senate report so aptly frames it.


The Conversation is running a series on “What are universities for?” looking at the place of universities in Australia, why they exist, who they serve, and how this is changing over time. Read other articles in the series here.

The ConversationLeo Goedegebuure is Director, LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne.
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The Scan #167 16 April 2015

Student debt growing rapidly as compliance declines

Game of Loans16 April 2015   |    With student debt ballooning, reform of the FEE-HELP system (HECS) is now a pressing budget issue with the nation’s second biggest financial asset, after the Future Fund, being eroded as one in five debtors renege on their loans. That figure is expected to rise to 25% by 2017. The government will have more than $70 billion in unpaid university student loans on its books in another two years, double the figure owed in 2013-14. According to researchers Richard Highfield and Neil Warren, the loans system is being compromised by successive governments’ commitment to increasing participation in tertiary education while not paying adequate attention to repayment compliance, especially among lower income vocational students who are unlikely to meet the income repayment threshold for years, if ever. The rapid expansion of HELP debt has also been driven by extension of the scheme to vocational students, a move which has been marred by mass-scale rorting by dodgy colleges. It would grow even more rapidly under a deregulated university fee regime…..[ MORE ]…..

Science contributes $145 b to GDP

16 April  2015   |   A report released by Ian Chubb, Australia’s Chief Scientist – The importance of Science & economyadvanced physical and mathematical sciences to the Australian economy – has found that advanced physical and mathematical sciences make a direct contribution to the Australian economy of around $145 billion a year, or about 11% of GDP. When the flow-on impacts of these sciences are included, the report finds the economic benefit expands to about $292 billion a year, or 22% of the nation’s economic activity.Chubb says that for the first time we now have the numbers on the table showing the importance of these sciences to the Australian economy. It is too easy to take the benefits of science and innovation for granted, and this report shows that the knowledge from these disciplines supports and enhances economic activity which benefits all Australians……[ MORE ]…..

V-C salaries take off

Fee increase216 April  2015   |   University heads have been pocketing substantial salary increases while demanding the Senate pass government legislation to allow fee deregulation based on the argument their institutions are cash-strapped. The biggest increase was for Sandra Harding, head of north Queensland’s James Cook University and chairwoman of peak group Universities Australia. Harding’s salary has increased 65 % in just four years — from $559,000 in 2010 to $927,000 last year, including a $79,000 pay increase last year. The highest paid vice-chancellor in Australia is Australian Catholic University’s Greg Craven, who took home a package of about $1.2 million in 2013……[ MORE ]…..

Fines for dodgy operators

16 April 2015    |   Registered Training Organisations (RTOs) breaching standards could be issued Quality2with an immediate fine under the new infringement notice scheme. New laws recently passed in the Senate require anyone, including brokers and other third parties, marketing a vocational education and training (VET) course to clearly identify which RTO is providing the qualification. Assistant Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, said that up until now the national regulator, the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) could only write warning letters, or take regulatory action such as cancelling or suspending a provider’s registration. He said he “hoped” the fines would act as a significant deterrent for training providers taking part in unscrupulous practices……[ MORE ]…..

International strategy welcomed

Flags

16 April 2015     |   The draft National Strategy for International Education released by the government in early April has been welcomed by the tertiary sector. The strategy defines three pillars of international education and six achievable goals to underpin Australia continuing to be a destination of choice for students, teachers and researchers. Submissions will be taken on the strategy until 29 May. …..[ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

Ian Jacobs takes over at UNSW

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Professor Ian Jacobs commenced as Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales in February 2015, succeeding Fred Hilmer, who stepped down after eight years in the role.

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Ian JacobsProfessor Jacobs came to Australia from the UK, where he had a distinguished career as a leading researcher in the area of women’s health and cancer and in university leadership. Immediately prior to joining UNSW he was Vice President and Dean at the University of Manchester and Director of the Manchester Academic Health Science Centre, a partnership linking the University with six healthcare organisations involving over 36,000 staff. He was previously at University College London, where he created and led the Institute for Women’s Health, was Research Director of UCL Partners and Dean of the Faculty of Biomedical Sciences.

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Comment & analysis

16 April 2015

Mistakes were made

Failure of the deregulation package and the way ahead

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The failure of the government to carry the Senate on its proposed higher education reforms can be put down to the government’s arrogance and heavy-handedness and what would politely be called its disingenuousness. Parts of the package were not without considerable merit – for example, extending public subsidies to the students of non-university higher education providers is a long overdue fairness measure and extending them generally to sub-degree programs could considerably improve retention rates. But overall, the package was seen to be poorly conceived and fundamentally flawed – certainly in respect of total fee deregulation.

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AUSTRALIA - UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY PROTEST

Mistakes were made, not the least the mistake of poor judgement by the university sector peak organisations, which came across as unalloyed supporters of the deregulation package: education minister Christopher Pyne was able to trumpet that the package had the support of “40 out of 41 vice-chancellors”, the single dissentient seemingly being Stephen Parker of the University of Canberra. It was never quite that straightforward – Andrew Vann (V-C Charles Sturt University) was, initially at least, as stridently opposed as Parker. At the outset, immediately after the Budget, Universities Australia, for example, called for changes to the package and a careful working through of the detail; and quite a few vice-chancellors expressed concern.

By and large, however, it’s true enough that the key plank of the package – unfettered fee deregulation – had the broad support of the university sector. And, at the end, the various university organisations were pleading with the Senate crossbenchers to pass the package.

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16 April 2015

Who should go to university?

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Conor King of the Innovative Research Universities group fears that in the absence of university fee deregulation, the demand driven-system will be dumped.

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New higher education minister Kim Carr is considering a rethink on the opening up of university places. AAP/Julian Smith
Back to the future?

Who should go to university, only the select or all who want to? It is the question that ran through the 2015 Universities Australia Conference in March. It is lurking behind the contentious funding and fees debate that has wracked higher education for the past year. It is the issue that determines how well higher education supports Australia’s future.

Gary Banks, former Productivity Commissioner, best illustrated the question. He revealed the ambivalence between the economist in him and the romantic academic. The economist argues human capital theory – the importance of each individual developing their education and skills to the optimum to apply in future work and life. The academic worries about the flood of people on campus, too many of whom do not meet the test of bright minds in pursuit of knowledge.

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15 April 2015

The social costs of high university charges

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Photo: Andrew Taylor
Photo: Andrew Taylor

This is an extract from Bruce Chapman’s submission to a Senate Committee inquiry into higher education fee deregulation (February 2015) in which he proposes a “progressive tax” on university funding as a means of constraining fees. He suggests the question of what the “right” price to charge students for public sector university teaching services “is not an argument that can be made easily with reference to economic theory or compelling evidence related to allocative efficiency. It is instead basically an ethical issue.”

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It needs to be asked: Does it matter that students/graduates might end up paying very high prices for higher education in Australia? Why should we be concerned about this possibility when it will still be the case that even with very high price rises, average lifetime graduate incomes will remain far greater than the incomes of non-graduates? This issue has exercised considerably my reaction to the fee deregulation debate since the Budget was brought down in May 2014. Some basic points are as follows.

There is no compelling and accurate answer to the question of how much students should contribute to the costs of running Australian public universities. Including my own research, all attempts to explain and measure the social benefits of university teaching are fraught with problems of inadequate data, less than convincing method and unclear conceptual interpretation.

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Life & stuff

6 April 2015

Image is everything

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News Corp photographer Brad Hunter will join Tony Abbott’s media staff later this month, raising concerns that news photographers will gain less direct access to the prime minister. .

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Abbott & kid asleep
The kid couldn’t take it any longer

Although it has long been a fixture in US politics, the Prime Minister broke new ground when he employed a former press gallery TV cameraman to his staff after the election, a move that frustrated television crews who found themselves forced to rely on footage provided by Mr Abbott’s press office.
It is not uncommon for the weekend television news to have only the Prime Minister’s weekly video message, recorded by his staff and distributed on a Sunday, to use in bulletins.
The videos were also distributed on social media, but it is often still photography that resonates best on the medium.

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Who should go to university?

16 April 2015

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Conor King of the Innovative Research Universities group fears that in the absence of university fee deregulation, the demand driven-system will be dumped.

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New higher education minister Kim Carr is considering a rethink on the opening up of university places. AAP/Julian Smith
Back to the future?

Who should go to university, only the select or all who want to? It is the question that ran through the 2015 Universities Australia Conference in March. It is lurking behind the contentious funding and fees debate that has wracked higher education for the past year. It is the issue that determines how well higher education supports Australia’s future.

Gary Banks, former Productivity Commissioner, best illustrated the question. He revealed the ambivalence between the economist in him and the romantic academic. The economist argues human capital theory – the importance of each individual developing their education and skills to the optimum to apply in future work and life. The academic worries about the flood of people on campus, too many of whom do not meet the test of bright minds in pursuit of knowledge.

Professor Banks went further to target one key to the problem – the education achievement of school leavers. If school leavers have the knowledge and skills expected from study through to year 12 then the arguments for open access to university make sense. If they do not, then the instinctive desire of higher education protectionists has a stronger foundation. They can cloak their exclusionary preference in the garb of applicants’ insufficient education development. The same challenge applies to the large number of non school leaver applicants.

Senator Carr has rarely hidden his support for the protectionist argument. Labor is now at the point of walking away from one of the few unchallenged policies of the Rudd-Gillard Government and from the essence of the Hawke Government achievement in doubling school retention and expanding universities. It is the Gillard changes that have seen sustained growth in the number of science and technology students, and slowed growth in law students, despite his contrary assertion. Student demand is more attuned to employment potential and apparent future demand than the previous allocation system.

Senator Carr’s proposals to create incentives for universities to ensure all those they enrol gain the education they need, neither falling by the wayside nor emerging essentially unskilled, is a useful idea: the initial Gillard package included performance funding measures precisely to do that. Honing in on low ATAR entrants, casting 50 as some sort of pass mark, is not. Professor Shergold rightly focused at the outcomes graduates have, not what they knew at entry.

Rose Steele, President of the National Union of Students, highlighted the issue, perhaps inadvertently but instinctively. She argued that university had to remain open to all ‘bright’ people, in her opposition to deregulating fees. ‘bright’ is a judgment but the sense is clear, that school leavers with middle to low ATARs are not ‘bright’.

The essence of the Dawkins expansion of universities followed through by the Bradley report’s demand driven funding is that higher education is one additional part of the education pathway which all people should have access to. The judgment of suitability is the gain the individual will get, not whether they are more or less capable than someone else.

So lets think about the schools as Professor Banks argued.

Over the 1980s year 12 retention rates doubled from being for the minority, 35% of the age cohort in 1980, to being for the majority at 77% in 1992, with small fluctuations since.1 This doubled the base group of university eligible students, and extending it across all regions. Every concern expressed about widening university access applies to this change in school completion rates. If twice as many
were completing school then surely standards had to fall, schools would struggle to deal with students with a wide range of academic capability and interest, school leavers would be overeducated for the jobs they took, and worst of all more and more people would think they were eligible for university.

Few people now question the value of high levels of year 12 retention and completion. We expect the schools to cope with the wide range of students. We blame them not the students for weaknesses in education standards.

The high school retention rates affect the ATAR. With over 70% of the school leaver cohort completing year 12 it means that those students are spread by definition across the ATAR range from 99 to less than 30. To determine that 50 is a pass point for university entry is to exclude over a quarter of year 12 graduates automatically from university.

The ATAR has sense in determining who, from those suitable, can access a particular course if places are limited – if you accept that priority should go to those initially more capable. It has no sensible role in determining who is suitable. For that you need to consider the skills of the applicant against those deemed needed for the course. School systems have that information (eg. see NSW grades ); universities to date largely ignore it.

The regional evidence undermines the argument that university must be selective because some of those year 12 completers are simply not ready for university. There are regions where 90% of the school age cohort completes year 12 and over 60% go on to university; conversely in other areas completion is lower around 60% with 20% to 30% going on to university. I have not seen anyone show that there is that level of difference in academic capability between regions.

At heart the protectionists are fighting a rear guard action to defend universities against the expectation that they be a place of education for all, not just for the bright and the socially well off. It is a strange argument that says that very high achievers can advance their knowledge only when surrounded by the few others like themselves with exclusive access to the most learned staff. It has never been true of Australian universities.

It is why I disagree that the funding and fee proposals in the Pyne package were the most radical in decades, or even centuries to echo Bruce Chapman’s rare hyperbolic moment. University financing options consume a lot of time, they generate lots of acrimony but ultimately they are about underpinning what the university does. HECS, now HELP, is a major mechanism to remove financial barriers, but it is a tool not the objective.

The significant change kicked off by Menzies, intensified by Whitlam and Dawkins, expanded by Gillard and open now for completion is to say that higher education is for all – bright, lumbering, rich and poor. It is what you will gain that matters, not whether you are better or worse than someone else.

1 ABS, National Schools Statistics Collection Australia 1985, CATALOGUE NO. 4221.0, Table 11 and ABS, Australian Social Trends March 2011, Year 12 Attainment, ABS catalogue no. 4102.0

NSW university offers 2015

20 January 2015

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UACAs in Victoria, the traditional January main round of university offers in NSW, through the University Admissions Centre (UAC), is decreasing in prominence in the calendar. Offers through the year and direct offers are becoming increasingly the norm. This year, universities have made 46,507 offers through UAC ‘s main round, down 4,307 (- 9%) on last year. But the total number of offers to date is actually up a little, at 76,339, up 1,542 ( + 2%) from last year’s 74,792. So, main round offers through UAC are now about 62% compared to 68% last year and almost 100% four or five years ago.

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Applications were down a little for this year (85,605 domestic applications vs. 86,800 for 2014 – a decrease of about 1.5%) but the “success rate” has obviously gone up (about 89% this year compared to 86% last year). Of course success is a relative term: many applicants would have not got their first preference of course at their preferred university.

This year also marks the end of a decades old tradition, with no newspaper publishing the offers – in Victoria, the Herald-Sun continues to publish an online supplement, which is quite useful.
And that’s all the information we have.

 

Victorian tertiary offers 2015

 20 January 2015

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vtac2Over 69,000 applicants have received an offer, through the Victorian Tertiary Admissions Centre (VTAC), for a place at a Victorian university, some private higher education colleges and for some courses at TAFE institutes. .University offers totalled about 57,000 out of about 68,000 applications, meaning a “success rate” of 84%, compared to 85% in 2014 but way ahead of the 75% rate in 2009, the year that places began to be uncapped. The average Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) for entry declined slightly, from 69.3 in 2014 to 68.1 in 2015.

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The data need to be interpreted with a little circumspection: it’s very hard  to compare this year with past years and seek to extrapolate any future trend. We’re seeing quite significant changes in patterns and practices of application and selection. For example, an ATAR is now not relevant to 50% of university applications; it’s really now only relevant in respect of current Year 12 applicants.

In addition an increasing proportion of both applications and offers now occur outside the VTAC framework and the traditional January “main round” of offers. This year VTAC conducted a pilot of direct applications, allowing someone to apply directly to an institution for a single approved course, rather than through VTAC. In fact, VTAC actually accounts for somewhat less than 50% of offers these days.

So, on the face of it, there has been a marked decline, for example in “non year” (that is, mature age) applicants of 9% (and one assumes offers). Regional applications are down 10%. It might be surmised that this reflects concerns about prospective fee increases and “$100,000 degrees”. It may well be in part , but more likely changes in application and offer processes are a bigger part of the explanation.

That average ATARs have declined (down to 68.1 from 68.1 in 2014) will excite chatter about “declining standards”. There’s a wealth of commentary on this – check out The Scan archive – but basically, why is that any sort of  a surprise? The whole point of the reforms arising out of the Bradley Review process were to:

  1. increase higher education attainment in the general population
  2. increase higher participation by poorly represented population groups (low SES, regional, indigenous).

To the extent that you achieve one goal, all things being equal (for example, #2 isn’t achieved at the expense of some group) you also achieve the other. And the overall effect must be that, “on average”, a lower ATAR than had hitherto been necessary (or no ATAR at all) will get some more applicants into a university course than had previously been the case (though not into any university course at any university).

The Abbott government has expressly abandoned the former government’s participation and attainment targets and its proposed “deregulation” package remains (for the time being, at least) blocked in the Senate.

So we won’t really know the deep meaning of this year’s “main round” until the Commonwealth department publishes its “applications, offers and acceptances” report some time later this year.
And heaven knows what this portends for next year or those following. It depends very much on what finally emerges from the Senate.

Key facts and figures

The following information relates to VTAC applicants for undergraduate courses offered in 2014 by Victorian universities, TAFE institutes and private colleges.

Figures in brackets show changes from last year.

Applications

• Total applicants: 76,648 (-2.2%)
• Domestic applicants: 74,358 (-2.2%)
– Year 12 applicants: 48,405 (+ 1.9%)
– Non Year applicants: 25,953 (-9%)
• International (Year 12 applicants): 2,290 (-1.5%)

Offers

• 69,337 total offers issued to date (-3.1%) comprising:
– 57,943 main round domestic offers issued (-1.1%)
– 9,624 early round domestic offers issued (-13.8%)
– 1,770 international Year 12 offers issued (-3.1%)
• 64,643 individual domestic applicants with at least one offer to date (-2.4%)

The following information relates to domestic applications and offers.

University applications and offers

(Domestic applications and offers only)

67,914 first preference applicants (-1.6%)
• Total offers issued to date: 56,945 (-3.0%)
– 48,559 main round offers (-0.9%)
– 8,386 early round offers (-13.4%)
• 54,510 applicants with a university offer to date (-2.3%)

TAFE applications and offers

• 5,340 first preference applicants (-6.2%)
• Total offers issued to date: 8,461 (-4.4%)
– 7,450 main round offers (-2.9%)
– 1,011 early round offers (-13.9%)
• 8,401 applicants with a TAFE offer to date (-3.9%)

Private college applications and offers

• 1,245 first preference applicants (-3.3%)
• Total offers issued to date: 2,161 (-1.3%)
– 1,934 main round offers (+2.2%)
–  227 early round offers (-23.6%)
• 2,156 applicants with a private college offer to date (-0.8%)
Graduate entry teaching (GET) courses
• 3,754 applications (-14.2%)
• 3,142 offers (-16.8%)

 

Follow link to tables

Individual Victorian University Applications and Offers 2009-2015

  • First Preference Undergraduate Applicants
  • Early and Main Round Offers
  • Main round offers by the primary field of study
  • Average ATAR of VCE applicants by the primary field of study of their main round offer

The Scan | #163 | 25 September 2014

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Vic’s ACFE joins TAFE “in crisis”decline (1)

24 September 2014     |     The travails besetting Victoria’s TAFE sector have spread to its Adult, Community and Further Education (ACFE) sector with the ACFE board 2013-14 annual report showing a $1.1 million loss for the ACFE Board after a $11 million cut in state government funding. ACFE returned a $9.4 million surplus in 2012-13. The sector has had a precipitous drop in government income from its peak in 2011-12 – down 80% – and since 2009-10 – down 40%….. [ MORE ]….

UWA sets undergraduate fee at $48,000

23 September 2014    Fees arrow|    The University of Western Australia is the first university to reveal its student fee structure under the government’s fee deregulation plans, advising a Senate committee it would charge an annual fee of $16,000 – $48,000 for a three year degree – for the five basic undergraduate courses it offers. That’s an increase of 160% for a degree in humanities disciplines (based on the 2015 student contribution of $6152 pa – $18,456 over three years).   And it does mean  a price tag of around $100,000 for “professional degrees”, such as law, medicine, architecture and engineering. Medicine will likely break the $100,000 mark under the new price structure and law will be around $95,000.   UWA says this is “commensurate’’ with its status as one of the leading universities in Australia and as one of the world’s top 100 universities. The new fees would take effect from 2016 provided Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s reform package passes the Senate, where it is facing heavy opposition from Labor, the Greens and Clive Palmer’s crossbenchers….. [ MORE ]….

Swinburne to restructure its VET provision 

23 September 2014    ||Dual sector Swinburne University is flagging a major restructure of its vocational training after falling short of revenue Swinburne logotargets on the back of state government funding cuts and increasing competition from private providers.In a consultation paper issued to staff, Swinburne said revenue from vocational education and training had slumped from $123.5 million in 2012 to a now projected $70m this year. But it said its current organisational structure was predicated on the university generating at least $90m a year from VET, and alternative options now need to be considered….. [ MORE ]….

La Trobe offers fee guarantee for early entry offers

23 September 2014    |     La Trobe University has offered some students a ‘fee cap guarantee’ if they study as part of the university’s new undergraduate early-La-Trobe_Logo_x2entry Aspire program. The university has offered about 1000 students the fee cap guarantee under the Aspire program – four months earlier than when offers are normally made and even before their exams had begun. The Aspire program recognises students with a proven commitment to involvement in their local community….[ MORE ]…..

Murdoch suspends vice-chancellor

Murdoch-logo-squared-200x17322 September 2014    |   Murdoch University suspended vice-chancellor Richard Higgott on full pay on 19 September as a result of the outcomes of a recent investigation by the university, which have been referred to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) for further assessment pursuant to section 28 of the Corruption and Crime Commission Act (2003). Murdoch University chancellor David Flanagan said the decision to suspend Higgott was regrettable but necessary as a result of the findings of the investigation and the policies of the university….[ MORE ]…..

Vocation shares suspended Vocation

19  September 2014     |    Trading of shares in ASX-listed VET provider Vocation was temporarily suspended on 19 September, at the request of the company, given ongoing speculation regarding its Victorian government funding contracts. Since listing in December 2013, Vocation has derived 80% of its revenues from subsidiary BAWM, most of which (90%) comes from Victorian government VET funding. However, that funding is being withheld, pending the outcome of an audit of courses provided by Vocation.  Trading resumed on 22 September.

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AQF Council disbanded

AQF19  September 2014    |    The Australian Qualifications Framework Council, which was responsible for governance of the Australian Qualifications Framework, has been disbanded. The council was originally established to deliver a review of the AQF, which culminated in the strengthened AQF. With this work completed, the government says it was timely to reconsider the role of the council. Stakeholders have been advised that the decision does not diminish the government’s commitment to the AQF, the residual functions of the council will be transferred to the Commonwealth department of education. Expert consultative bodies are to convened as required to advise ministers on any AQF policy matters which arise….[ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

NCVER appoints new CEO

Craig FowlerThe National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has announced the appointment of Dr Craig Fowler as its new managing director, to succeed Rod Camm who is heading off to the Australian Council for Private Education.  He will assume the post in late October. In announcing the appointment, the chair of NCVER, Professor Peter Shergold, said that Dr Fowler  has worked in both the private and public  sectors, including at very senior levels of the South Australian public service for the last 11 years.  He said Dr Fowler possesses an “exceptional depth of understanding of vocational education and training and the national training system, and a deep sense of the importance of skills acquisition to Australia’s future prosperity”.

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Comment & analysis

$100,000 degrees?

Sure thing!

24  September 2014

Initial reporting on the University of Western Australia’s proposed fee structure, announced to a Senate committee inquiry, was tentative, ambiguous and/or wrong: for example, ABC News reported it as a fee increase of “30%”. In the absence of any documentation, The Scan noted “we don’t know whether that’s the total price (student contribution plus commonwealth subsidy) or the proposed student contribution. If the former, that’s an increase of around 30% for a degree in humanities disciplines , if the latter…. that’s an increase of 160% (based on the 2015 student contribution of $6152 pa – $18,456 over three years)”.

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We were soon able to confirm it was the 160% scenario. We agree with The Australian that UWA’s presentation of this has a “tinge of insincerity” to it, proclaiming that “UWA is offering future students the opportunity to obtain a three-year undergraduate degree from one of the world’s top 100 universities for less than $50,000” – leaving out the material fact, that, under current arrangements, you can get an undergraduate degree from UWA in the humanities for under $20,000 or in science for about $26,000. UWA’s media statement points to the fact that “all UWA undergraduate degrees lead to a range of professional degrees at postgraduate level with a high level of flexibility” ,which leads directly to the “$100,000” degree outcome which education minister and advocates of full fee deregulation have consistently decried as “scaremongering”. This is neatly explained in The Australian’s High Wired blog, which as always cuts to the chase, with a bit of edge. One point High Wired calculates the current cost of a law at UWA as $82,198: we think it’s somewhat less, with an Arts degree followed by law currently coming in at $65,646. This is not cheap: students who are currently studying for in an arts-law or economics-law combination at most other Group of Eight universities, such as Monash, Sydney, Queensland or Adelaide, would pay around $53,000).

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Sector submissions to the Senate Inquiry

25  September 2014

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Generally supportive of reform, with significant amendments

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The government’s higher education reform package – the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 – was referred on 3 Septemberto the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for consideration and report by 28 October. Submissions to the inquiry closed on 22 September. The committee has published 79 submissions on its website. Following are extracts from 27 submissions lodged by higher education organisations (peak bodies) and individual institutions. There is almost unanimous support for passage of the package, particularly fee deregulation, on the basis that the long run decline in public funding is damaging the sector. Several submissions express opposition or concern about the extension of public subsidies to private providers (ACU stridently so). There is a united view that the package needs to be amended, particularly to at least ameliorate the burden of debt on future generations of students, that would follow from the combination of substantial fee increases and the imposition of a real interest rate on student loans (although no unanimity on how that might be achieved). Deakin University says the proposed changes to the HECS repayment scheme are unfair and rejects any compromise on this issue. The Regional Universities Network and the Group of Eight have formed a unity ticket on additional support for regional universities and their students. Stephen Parker (vice-chancellor, University of Canberra) and the National Tertiary Education Union make strange bedfellows in urging rejection of the package in its entirety. The submissions can be viewed in full at the Senate website.   For background on the debate around fee deregulation, check The Scan archive – it’s extensive.

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19 September 2014

Meanwhile, in the US…

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With a furious debate going on about university fee deregulation in Australia, the US system of fee deregulation, lauded by the proponents of fee deregulation, has seen student debt in the US surpass debt from credit cards and auto-loans, and become second only to mortgages.
US talk show host John Oliver advises US college students to enjoy themselves – to party and to get out and about:

Please, make sure your college years are the best ones of your life, because thanks to the debt we are saddling you with, they almost certainly will be.

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For a summary :
Drink Beer, Shoot Fireworks Out Your Bum: John Oliver’s Uni Debt Warning

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 The best compromise for HELP loan interest rates

    25 September 2014

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 The government’s plan to charge up to 6% interest on HELP loans has been widely attacked as unfair. Many critics, including Shadow Education MinisterKim Carr, the Group of Eight universities, Universities Australia and HECS architect Bruce Chapman, have come out against pegging HELP loans to the bond rate, rather than CPI as it is now. Geoff Sharrock of the LH Martin Institute sets out a compromise.

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Interest rates

In the government’s Senate negotiations, a good compromise would apply CPI plus 1 percentage point to all HELP debts. The savings would tap a larger pool of graduates, not just those likely to face higher fees and larger loans in the future.

At lower real interest than the cases described here, CPI plus 1% may still bridge much of the gap between the two rates. In the last 10 years CPI ranged from 1.2% to 5%, and the bond rate from 3% to 6.5%. In the last two and a half years CPI ranged from 1.2% to 3%, and the bond rate from 2.9% to 4.3%.

CPI plus 1% would also give graduates an incentive to repay HELP debts as soon as they can, not just the minimum required. The risk is notably higher repayment costs for those who don’t clear their debts in say 20 years. But at 1% the real interest risk is less than with the Group of Eight 1.4% scenarios.

If the Senate agreed to this “1% solution” the budget savings would still be substantial. This would allow more scope to minimise subsidy cuts, another savings proposal that shifts costs to students. In turn this would reduce the risk of higher tuition fees, and higher HELP debts in the first place.

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Life & stuff

A gardening tip: plant on Grand Final Day, not Cup Day

22 September 2014

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Ever since anyone can remember, Melbourne Cup Day – the first Tuesday in November – has been the day for gardeners to start planting tomatoes in Melbourne, when warmer overnight temperatures are more reliable.

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Tomatoes

But University of Melbourne “urban horticulturalist” Dr Chris Williams says due to climate change, AFL Grand Final Day, the last Saturday in September, should replace the time-honoured planting signpost in gardening folklore.

Urban Horticulturalist Dr Chris Williams, from the Melbourne School of Land and Environment, University of Melbourne ( Burnley Campus) says that overnight temperatures through winter into early spring have warmed over the past ten years to make Grand Final Day the new seasonal signpost for tomato planting.

Once-upon-a-time the wise gardener would hold off planting tomatoes until Cup Day because those chilly spring nights could result in frost damage. But with this pattern of milder winter and spring nights you can plant summer crops like tomatoes a good month earlier.

And, what’s more, the warmer temperatures also mean Melbourne gardeners can now successfully grow heat loving crops such as sweet potatoes, once regarded as a from-Sydney-and-north home veggie.
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Making a stab at fees poses grave risks: UA

Universities Australia    |     21 May 2014

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Sandra HardingWith Prime Minister Tony Abbott acknowledging that he can’t guarantee that university fees might not double, University Australia chair Sandra Harding says that there are “grave risks” in a precipitate move to fee deregulation, set to take place in 2016.  As the new fee regime will apply to all enrolments after 14 May 2014,  students enrolling after that date will not know the fees that will apply from 1 January 2016 until such time as universities announce their fees. In order to provide some degree of certainty and inform student choice, some universities, outside the Group of Eight, at least, may be forced to make an early “stab” at price settings. But as Harding points out, a stab is not the marketplace working efficiently. A set of stabs, with some getting their settings right and others failing, will help shake out the marketplace,michael-spence- leaning but at what cost to students, their families and to the integrity of the higher education system when it is possible to move ahead in a more considered, timely and respectful manner? Meanwhile University of Sydney vice chancellor Michael Spence, a supporter of uncapped fee deregulation, has added his voice to to the call for a “national conversation” on the proposed reforms to higher education to ensure access to the “elite universities” is on the basis of academic merit alone. And University of Adelaide vice-chancellor Warren Bebbington, another supporter of fee deregulation, has warned  the proposals risk amounting to “misregulation” rather than deregulation.  In an email to students, Bebbington said the government’s plan to impose interest rates on HECS debts by using the 10-year bond rate risked causing a crippling debt problem and was “unduly harsh”.

Amid this growing unrest among vice chancellors concerned that the reforms are being rushed and are unfair to students, the government is ramping up consultation with the university sector.  A number of working groups have been established to advise education minister Christopher Pyne on how to implement the reforms, including one on “innovative financing options for university infrastructure” to be chaired by former University of South Australia vice chancellor Denise Bradley and Education Investment Fund chairman Phil Clark.

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 The fog has lifted on the Government’s intent on higher education reform but implementation on the ground is a real pea-souper.

Lest the pea soup engulf the orderly development of a new higher education system which the Government expects to be the best in the world, implementation issues must be addressed before it is introduced.

The Government has now committed to an extension of the demand driven system to non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs), at a lower rate than universities in recognition of the additional obligations attaching to universities including public good obligations and research, and to fee deregulation applied to Australian domestic students.

The Commission of Audit and author of the review of the demand driven system report, Andrew Norton have both called for consultation before introducing fee deregulation.

Despite this advice, layered on top of the extension of the demand driven system to NUHEPs comes the big ticket item of fee deregulation including significant cuts in the government contribution to per student funding; with universities set to raise fees to at least cover the shortfall; HELP loans for students with lower income thresholds for repayment and interest rates; and scholarships for disadvantaged students to be paid from higher student fees.

The new system takes effect ostensibly from 1 January 2016, but with a 14 May 2014 ‘start’ date such that students enrolling from last week can be subject to fee hikes from January 2016.

In a business sense for universities, the change takes effect immediately.

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This immediate start timeframe means that universities must move quickly to determine their fee position, or leave Australian students who are considering commencing study in mid-2014 in the dark about what they’ll be up for come January 2016.

There are grave risks here.

Universities are being asked to set fees in an unprecedented market environment. While we have experience setting fees for postgraduate course work programs and for international students, these fees are set in a fairly mature marketplace, disciplined by past experience and known competitive pressures.

The domestic, undergraduate marketplace of the Government’s intent is unprecedented, with old and new players, new financial incentives, new rules for student debt repayment, new scholarship arrangements and more.

So what will universities and NUHEPs do about informing students and their families about their obligations if they are looking at enrolling now – not in 2015 or 2016?

As informed decisions about this are hard to make in the context of an emerging market with few market signals to guide price setting, universities and NUHEPs will either simply tell prospective domestic students who are considering study from mid-2014 that their fees will go up in January 2016, but not indicate the fee level, or they may take a stab at price setting.

Not being able to inform students of the fee implications of their programs is almost certain to give pause to students who might otherwise enter university mid-2014, particularly mature age students whom we know from the UK experience are sensitive to fee changes.

We provide better guidance than this to international students. Indeed, universities typically advise the marketplace of fees to be applied a year ahead and then either commit to a possible annual fee increase within some percentage range or declare a fixed price at enrolment.

This means that entering international students can make an informed decision about their study choice. This is what we would want for domestic undergraduate students and it begs the question why we wouldn’t show Australian students the same respect now, with appropriate advance notification of the specifics of prospective price rises.

Those institutions that do wish to give some guidance on fees for current, prospective domestic students, will have to have a stab.

In having a stab, universities may match their domestic student fees with international student fees. After all, the international market has been tested, it is the only undergraduate fee paying market at scale we have access to and we understand our niche there.

If not this, universities will have to come up with their own formulation most likely based on costs and assumptions rather than market dynamics.

Having declared a price point – more likely many price points for various programs or subjects – and given the immaturity of the marketplace for domestic full fee paying students, it is highly likely that forecast prices will be wrong with a market impact that may have to be unraveled. What all this means for the student contract with universities is unclear.

A stab is not the marketplace working efficiently.

A set of stabs, with some getting their settings right and others failing, will help shake out the marketplace, but at what cost to students, their families and to the integrity of the higher education system when it is possible to move ahead in a more considered, timely and respectful manner?

Establishing an efficiently operating marketplace will take time and effort. It will take account of the impact of extension of the demand driven system to NUHEPs and sub-degree places, price signals sent and received, understanding the new HELP and scholarship arrangements, some market testing of price sensitivity with particular student segments.

A reasoned and sensible approach to a developing marketplace just cannot be achieved immediately – which is the implementation task set by Government given the 14 May effective start date. A date at the beginning or mid-2015 is required.

As events in the recent past have shown, undue haste and poor execution poses grave risks to even the soundest policy intent.

This op-ed piece was first published in The Australian on 21 May 2014.

University proves attractive over trades

The Australian   |   6 May 2014

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A study by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER), to be released next month, shows the expanding university system is affecting the recruitment of apprentices.

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The report, based on Longitudinal Study of Australian Youth data, compares the experiences of young men born in about 1980 and 1991.

It finds that young people who left school late last decade were more likely to go to university than those who finished their secondary education 10 years earlier.

This has “unambiguously” impacted on the quality of appren¬tices, says the report, which is due to be released next month. It says apprenticeships are increasingly going to people who scored among the lowest 40% in Year 9 high school reading and maths exams. Expansion of higher education has also shifted the distribution of university students away from the top band and towards the bottom 60%,“with a noticeable decline in the proportion of male university students in the top quintile.”

Increasing university participation has not reduced overall apprentice numbers because apprenticeship ranks have been replenished by people who would have neither studied nor trained in earlier times.

The NCVER report reinforces assumptions that, given the choice, young people tend to prefer university over training.

Those with a high probability of going to university are much less likely to undertake an apprenticeship. Statistical testing justifies the assumption that going to university is the dominant decision … over and above any arguments about the status of apprenticeships relative to university.

Split on extending CSPs to private providers – and fees

22 April 2014

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The Kemp-Norton review’s recommended extension of Commonwealth subsidies to students attending private for-profit higher education providers has split the public university sector. 

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UNIVERSITY STOCK

Universities Australia (UA) says such an extension is a policy high wire act which, if not properly controlled, could endanger the hard won reputation of the Australian higher education sector and called for a cautious approach.

UA chief Belinda Robinson says universities are not opposed to even more competition but such a move would “represent a radical change to the ecology of Australian higher education and warrants further, deep and comprehensive analysis, including of any unintended or undesirable consequences”:

In considering this recommendation, serious analysis must be undertaken on the potential impact on educational quality, Australia’s international reputation, potential taxpayer dollar waste as a consequence of institutional failure, relative quality assurance safeguards (both internal and external) and the capacity for meeting future labour market needs.

Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, which has almost doubled its student enrolments from 14,000 to 24,000 since the introduction of the demand-driven system, said giving private providers access to government subsidies might prove to be problematic.

There is a basic psychological difference between a statutory body (university) ploughing money back into the enterprise and a private college whose modus operandi is to make a profit.  Right or wrong, there are simply a different set of economic assumptions and if you are going to extend public funding you have to think that through.

He notes “the hint” in the report seems to be that uni students might have to pay more out of their own pockets to bankroll the extension to commercial operations.

Of course, there always has been the argument that if a government were to allow universities to charge more by way of fees — arguably necessary at some future point to support national research excellence — private colleges would keep them honest by undercutting them.

But the truth is the privates would not be competing with the elite universities that might potentially charge a significant premium, but with the very mass-entry institutions that inevitably would have to keep their charges low.

Right on cue, in an article for the Times Higher Education supplement, Warren Bebbington, vice-chancellor of the University of Adelaide, a member of the Group of Eight leading universities, says that the review is an opportunity to transform Australian higher education into the most dynamic system in the world.

According to Bebbington, if the chance is taken, Australia could develop a system with as much variety of provision as the US, but “without the crippling debts that American students suffer”. But:

…the review’s recommendations have generated anguished outcry from our public universities. It seems for some vice-chancellors, ‘demand driven’ means only that government should demand everyone is driven into the present public universities. The sameness which bedevils Australian higher education, where we all try to be comprehensive research universities, would simply go on and on.

Meanwhile, the case in favour of fee increases has kicked off , with Ian Young, vice chancellor of ANU and chair of the Group of Eight, in a nuanced article with ANU chancellor Gareth Evans, argues:

It is time to change our one-size-fits-all funding system and let diversity develop. Changes to the system will be controversial, but real change is required if Australia is to offer its young people a real choice in education and produce graduates to match the best in the world.

Andrew Norton, co-author of the review responded that the peak body is out of line with many of its members and its concerns weren’t backed by solid evidence. He noted that many universities are already happy to take students prepared for university study by for-profit providers such as stock exchange listed Navitas Ltd.

He said extending public subsidies to non-university providers is a critical part of the review’s proposed changes, noting that such providers were more expert and successful than universities at delivering sub-bachelor programs such as diplomas. One of the recommendations of the review is that the government include higher education sub-bachelor programs, such as diplomas, in the demand driven system in which public universities are allowed to offer as many government subsidised bachelor degree places as they can fill.

The architect of the demand- driven system, Denise Bradley, has also given the thumbs up to the Norton-Kemp review while lashing out at commentators who have raised alarm at the recommendation to include private colleges and training organisations in the funding system. Bradley told The Australian that the Norton-Kemp review “moves the demand-driven system forward to where it needs to go”.

[The review of higher education] had always assumed that commonwealth supported places would spread further among non-university providers.  Some of the biggest owners of private providers are universities themselves and there is something extraordinary about the Universities Australia media release on the review. Every university either owns a registered training organisation or works in a formal relationship with one.

 

See
University funding: Student fees may rise as Government considers major shake-up (ABC AM)

 

The Scan # 145 6 January 2014

Summer Edition

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Extremism risks uni reputation : PyneNews Wedge

Academic extremism risks damaging the standing of Australia’s universities, says education minister Christopher Pyne.

boycott_divestment_sanctions-300x198.jpg.pagespeed.ic.8ncFbpvFMR6 January 2014 | Pyne’s comments come in the wake of the controversy over the support for the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement by Sydney University’s Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies and that a Sydney University senior lecturer was part of a WikiLeaks Party delegation granted an audience with Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, where they affirmed “the solidarity” of the Australian people….[ READ MORE ]….

A ship of fools…?

6 January 2014 | Professor Chris Gurney, leader of the ill fated Australasian Antarctic Expedition, has expressed his inconvenient frustration over what he says “appears to be a misrepresentation of the expedition in some news outlets and on the internet.” The expedition has been accused of being a tourist trip with little scientific value (sort of the Love Boat in colder climes); of being ill-prepared for the conditions; putting rescuers at risk; and making light of a dangerous situation. Others have remarked on what they describe as the irony of climate researchers stuck in unexpected ice.…[READ MORE]….

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Review of demand driven system

ua logoSubmissions to the review of the demand driven system initiated by education minister Christopher Pyne closed on 16 December 2013. University sector submissions support its retention and an extension to sub-bachelor places to create pathways for less academically prepared students. Submissions also propose readjusting fees, including a mechanism to allow full fees (IRU).

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TDA argues for TAFE CSPs

tda_logo- largeTAFE Directors Australia submission to the review of the demand driven system has a number of propositions in support of extending the Commonwealth fee subsidy (Commonwealth supported places) enjoyed by university undergraduate students to higher education students at non-university HE providers such as TAFEs. It also argues for creation of a special provider category of ‘Polytechnic university’ or ‘University college’ , as teaching only institutions, that recognises the increasingly important role of the non-university provider and upholds the status of their qualifications offerings as an alternative equivalent to a traditional university qualification.

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Menzies

“It is not yet adequately understood that a university education is not, and certainly should not be, the perquisite of a privileged few. We must become a more and more educated democracy if we are to raise our spiritual, intellectual, and material living standards… The new charter for the universities, as I believe it to be, should serve to open many doors and to give opportunity and advantage to many students.”

-Sir Robert Menzies, 28 November 1957, quoted in the Swinburne University submission

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The Scan in 2013

Most viewed items for the year

The%20hiatus%20pic%20cloudIn 2013, 816 items, featuring 936 pictures, were posted on The Scan (vs. 852 in 2012). We’re obviously an international publishing phenomenon, with visitors from 153 countries. The continuing ructions in the VET sector featured heavily in 2013 (Once was TAFE , a leading post in 2012, wasn’t too far off the pace in 2013, either), as did regulatory issues in both the VET and higher education sectors. You would have expected in an election year that politics and policy would rate highly: but it was the paucity of new policy, for either VET or higher education, that was notable BEFORE the election, although Christopher Pyne has had a bit to say since. With both a national commission of audit and a formal review of the higher education demand driven system to report in early 2014, next year’s budget (probably delivered on Tuesday 13 May 2014) should be full of interest.

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The Scan December 2013

The 10 most viewed items on The Scan in December 2013, in order.

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Job vacancy

Executive Director, Victorian TAFE Transition Taskforce

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4 January 2013 | The Executive Director, TAFE Transition Taskforce, is responsible for providing oversight, support and advice to Government on the transition of TAFE institutes into a new operating environment to maintain a vibrant and competitive TAFE sector. The role is responsible for governance, performance monitoring, and reporting for TAFE institutes, universities and other adult and vocational education entities. The Executive Director is also responsible for strategic engagement across government with central agencies and Ministers as well as the TAFE sector as a whole.

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TAFE in the era of skills reform

Leesa Wheelahan, formerly of the L H Martin Institute for Tertiary Education Leadership and Management at the University of tafe-imageMelbourne, recently moved to Canada to take up the William G Davis Chair of Community College Leadership at the Ontario Institute for Studies for Education at the University of Toronto. Leesa has been a champion of the public TAFE system and a strong critic of successive governments’ reforms of the TAFE and VET system in Australia, which has left the TAFE system in an emaciated state. In this “exit” interview. Leesa ponders the future of TAFE in the era of “skills reform.”

quote marksIn Victoria TAFE market share has dropped to 40% and while that’s not the only measure of institutional viability or health, clearly when you have had a massive loss of market share the implications of that for the sector are dire because you lose institutional capacity, resources, funding. The capacity of TAFE institutions has been undermined and attacked. In a couple of the other states the drift is just the same. Poised as you are to leave, looking back, what advice would you give governments? What will happen if TAFE falls over? Is there any way back from where we are at the moment?

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Comment & analysis

The rise of Massive Open Online Courses is presenting higher education with a powerful challenge. Access to great teachers will help millions. But will MOOCs cause a massive institutional shakeout as well, asks John Yemma of The Christian Science Monitor?

Are MOOCs making education a monoculture?

MOOCs2A balance needs to be struck between the franchising of high-quality education and the more intimate, locally grown experience that occurs when teachers and students reason together in a classroom. It seems inevitable that the MOOC monoculture will spread. But let’s make sure we preserve the woodlot. Amazing, unthought-of ideas could be growing in it.

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Bob Smith’s secret

Tech-savvy students are finding ways to cheat that let them ace online courses with minimal effort, in ways that are difficult to detect.

Anonymous
“Bob Smith”

2 January 2013 | “Bob Smith”, a student at a public university in the United States, spent just 25 to 30 minutes each week this past semester on an online science course, the time it took him to take the weekly test. He never read the online materials for the course and never cracked open a textbook. He learned almost nothing. He got an A.

His secret was to cheat, and he’s proud of the method he came up with—though he asked that his real name and college not be used, because he doesn’t want to get caught. It involved four friends and a shared Google Doc, an online word-processing file that all five of them could read and add to at the same time during the test.

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Comment & analysis

Policy directions in higher education

In this commentary for the ACPET Journal for Private Education, Brendan Sheehan looks to the higher education policy horizon under the newly elected Coalition government.

signposts2It has been clear for some time that general budget pressures, and the ballooning cost of higher education, would bring the gaze of policymakers, post-election, to the efficacy of a demand-driven system — whatever the hue of the government.

The post-election gaze is unlikely to stop at the demand-driven system, and will certainly take in the architecture of the entire system, including the place of non-university higher education provision, which has a small but growing role in provision.

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The first School in the Cloud opens

sole-mainLocated inside George Stephenson High School in Killingworth, England, this one-room learning lab is a space where students can embark on their own learning adventures, exploring whatever questions most intrigue them….[ READ MORE ]….

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What’s our vision for the future of learning?

Future of LearningFor 150 years, formal education has adopted an ‘inside-out’ mindset – schools and colleges have usually been organised around the needs of the educators, not the learners. In areas such as research, this is nothing to be embarrassed about. Ground-breaking inventions and pioneering new thinking often arise from the selfishness that informs so-called ‘blue-sky’ research. Defending such freedoms from the external drive for practical and commercial implementation has often encouraged a necessary insularity….[ READ MORE ]…..

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UA Conference 2014

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2013 : Australia’s hottest year

3 January 2013

Data collected and analysed by the Bureau of Meteorology show that 2013 was Australia’s warmest year on record while rainfall was slightly below average nationally. As Nobel laureate Peter Doherty observes, no serious climate scientist seems to be surprised at this – although Maurice Newman, a banker and chief business adviser to the Abbott government, describes climate change policies as being based on “scientific delusion“. On the same day that Newman’s remarks were published (1 January 2014), the University of NSW released details of research, to be published in the prestigious journal Nature, which shows our climate is more sensitive to carbon dioxide than most previous estimates and that global average temperatures will rise at least 4°C by 2100 and potentially more than 8°C by 2200 if carbon dioxide emissions are not reduced.

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THE’s most read stories 2013

best-of-2013-rosett_450According to Times Higher Education, its readers have shown particular interest in global stories, including features on the rise of Singaporean universities and on life as an expatriate scholar in Japan, as well as the inaugural THE Global Gender Index, which exposed the inequalities facing women in higher education worldwide. Here, from fifteen to one (excluding stories on the THE World University Rankings), are THE’s most-read stories of the year.

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28 December 2013

Google’s zeitgeist

What people searched for via Google in 2013

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Great Books 2013

GoldfinchBeing pulled into the world of a gripping novel can trigger actual, measurable changes in the brain that linger for at least five days after reading. Research carried out at Emory University (US) found that reading a good book may cause heightened connectivity in the brain and neurological changes that persist in a similar way to muscle memory.

A selection of “best books” published in 2013 has been compiled by Booktopia for the the online news service The New Daily.

One of the most hailed works of fiction in 2013 has been Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. Booktopia’s Caroline Baum describes it as a dense, intelligent, complex and dark story about a small jewel of a painting that goes missing from the New York Metropolitan Museum following a bomb attack.

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The year in music

Jonathon Alley of Stack Magazine sums up the past 12 months of “tunes, ascensions and triumphs”.


17 year old New Zealand singer Lorde was the debut artist of the year – this You Tube clip has been viewed 116 million times, so you might have seen it.

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Images of 2013

 

Pictures 2013

Reuters presents extraordinary images taken by its global network of photographers in 2013 (click “view all images” at the top left to open presentation).

Please note that some of the images are of extreme violence, which are distressing.

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30 December 2013

The year in cartoons

So much insightful, funny and cutting commentary comes from Australia’s great cartoonists. Many people miss out. Inspired by Barrie Cassidy’s Insiders Talking Pictures, this Facebook page Political Cartoons Australiahas a selection of the year’s best cartoons. Our personal favourite by Fairfax’s John Spooner accompanied the post The tide goes out, on the crumbling of the Gillard Government.

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Best of life & stuff

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Nothing – or is it?

Life & Stuff is our lifestyle section: art, music, musings, celebrations and anniversaries, silliness, wisdom. This is our selection of posts from the past two years.

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Smarter cities, cheaper tablets…

..from expanded connectivity, drones and patent wars to cheaper tablets, monster games and smart Hudlwearables, and a bubble in “cryptocurrencies”, The Guardian previews likely directions in technology in 2014.

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Life & stuff

Cricket’s on the radio

The sounds of summer

One of the sounds of an Australian summer is the cricket on the radio. And the sound is about to change with the imminent retirement of ABC commentator Kerry “Skull” O’Keefe. As Tim Lane describes it, the one-time peroxide-haired leggie, with an action more complicated than the deliveries it produced, grew from relative obscurity to cult figure status in the space of one or two guffaws of snorting laughter. The laugh and his idiosyncratic form of humour annoys some people but for most of us, Skull has given an added colourful dimension to the cricket. One of his more celebrated moments was the Frog Joke but Harsha Bhogle’s Naga Chillies was also a classic radio moment. He’s also an expert commentator on cricket.

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iTunes U

itunesu

If you’ve got an Apple device – iPad, iPhone or iPod – you can improve your mind while you’re relaxing on the beach – cue up ancient Roman history or physics podcasts on La Trobe University’s iTunesU.

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KMC moment

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Summer School for Gardeners

Open GardensOpen Gardens Australia and the University of Melbourne are conducting the inaugural Summer School for Gardeners – Keeping Gardening Down to Earth at Melbourne’s Burnley campus 22-24 January 2014. The three-day seminar and workshop program will provide opportunities to learn about the latest gardening practices and contemporary horticultural issues from some of Australia’s most respected horticultural, environmental and gardening experts.

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Music, Melbourne & Me:

40 years of Mushroom and Melbourne’s Popular Music Culture

A celebration of the last four decades of popular music represented through music, songs, posters, photographs, costumes, memorabilia and iconic rock venues.

Paul Kelly
Joe Camilleri and Paul Kelly, 1983, Walk On By.
Photo: Mark Ashkanasy.

RMIT Gallery, 344 Swanston Street, Melbourne, from 19 November to 3 March, 2014. Entry is free.

Opening hours are 11am till 5pm (Monday to Friday), 11am to 7 pm (Thursdays), 12 noon to 5 pm (Saturdays). Closed Sundays and public holidays.

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