14/10/14

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Prestige matters but not as much as course 

13 October 2014    |     Bachelor-degree graduates of Australia’s sandstone and technology universities earn about 6% more over a 40-year career than do graduates of grattan_logoAustralia’s other universities, a new Grattan Institute report reveals. The report – Mapping Australian higher education, 2014-15 – also shows that course taken has a bigger effect on income than university attended. Technology universities – including RMIT, Curtin University and Queensland University of Technology – are much lower in international university rankings than sandstone universities such as Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. But this does not seem to matter in the Australian labour market. For graduates with bachelor degrees like commerce or science earning attending a sandstone or technology university is likely to be worth about $200,000 more over their working lives. However, studying engineering at any university is likely to lead to a higher salary than studying arts at a sandstone university……. [ MORE ]….

NMIT rebranded as “Melbourne Polytechnic”

6 October 2014     |      The financially troubled Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, which lost almost$32 million in 2013, has received a $19 million grant from the state government Melb Poly logoand rebranded itself Melbourne Polytechnic. It is the last of the big Victorian TAFEs to ditch the TAFE brand, with most of the TAFEs now styled as “institutes” and the four Victorian dual sector universities having exited the the state TAFE system in January. Interim CEO Ron Gauci says the name change is a strategy to reach out to Europe and Asia, rather than a backhander against the TAFE title. While the federal government’s planned deregulation of higher education would largely level the playing field in degree-level education, the institute’s name change would be beneficial…… [ MORE ]….

Rankings confirm “world class system” 

THE World Rankings3 October 2014      |    Australian universities have made made big gains in the latest Time Higher Education (THE) world university rankings, with one new entrant joining the world’s top 200, and most of Australia’s top universities moving up the rankings. Melbourne University remains Australia’s top-ranked university in 33rd position globally, ahead of the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra at 45th (up from 48th last year), the University of Sydney at 60th (up from 72nd) and the University of Queensland at 65th position (down from 63rd). Adelaide made the top 200, coming in at 164, and Curtin University and the University of Western Sydney made it into the top 400. The rankings report says the data shows that Australia does not have just a few world-class universities, but a world-class system – in addition to the eight universities which make the world top 200, there are a further 12 universities which make the 200-400 group. But it also raised questions about the Commonwealth government’s proposed tertiary education reforms….. [ MORE ]….

Public benefit of uni outweighs private benefit

3 October 2014     |     The Australian public, not individuals, benefits most from higher education but students shoulder most of the cost, according to figures from the Organisation forOECD Education at a glance Economic Co-operation and Development that undermine the government’s claim that students should pay more because they benefit most. The public rate of return from tertiary education in Australia is twice the rate of return to the individual analysis shows. For every public dollar put towards the cost of higher education, a man repays $6 through higher taxes and reduced unemployment benefits. By contrast, the man himself – who benefits personally from higher earnings and higher chances of employment – gets back only $3.20 for every dollar he pays for the cost of his education. A woman in Australia repays $4.40 for every public dollar spent on her education while her private return is $2.50 per dollar. Australia bucks the international trend as one of only five OECD countries where the public profits at a higher rate than the individual. It ranks second out of 29 countries – behind only Britain – for the biggest benefit to the public, while in 24 countries the private rate of return outweighs or equals the public rate…… [ MORE ]….

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Good news

Threads for workworking wardrobe logo

6 October 2014     |      People who experience disadvantage face many challenges , not the least of which is  finding suitable clothes to wear to an interview and during the early period of their employment.  The Working Wardrobe, an initiative being launched by Melbourne Polytechic’s Work Education Centre is a not for profit clothing store selling clothes suitable for a variety of workplace situations, with money raised being used to outfit disadvantaged students for the workplace.  Staff in the Work Education Centre will be able to give advice to people in understanding what type of clothing is suitable for work. Start-up costs were funded via a business development grant from the Inner North Community Foundation, supported by Portland House.  Rosanna Matovinovic, a teacher at the Work Education Centre, explains that:

Understanding and being able to present yourself appropriately for work seems like a really simple thing, but in fact it’s quite difficult for some people for a whole range of reasons.  We aim to help our students take that first step with the confidence that they look completely appropriate for their working environment.

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Comment & analysis

Submissions to the Senate Inquiry

The Conversation   |      30 September 2014

Submissions1

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Submissions to the Senate’s inquiry into the higher education reform bill have now closed. The inquiry is now conducting public hearings throughout Australia and is to report to the Senate on 28 October. Here, Tim Pitman overviews the 163 submissions received.  The Scan has extracted some key points from about 50 of these submissions (something we will never, ever attempt again).

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The key elements of the bill are outlined here but in essence it seeks to greatly deregulate the higher education sector by allowing universities to set their own maximum fees for undergraduate domestic students and increasing competition between public and private providers. If passed, the legislation will shift a greater proportion of the cost of higher education onto the student and increase the way in which interest accumulates on student debt. The changes will also increase competition by opening up the sector to private providers of higher education.

At the time of publication more than 130 submissions have been made public. The majority are against most of the proposed reforms. But the real tale of the tape is in how those submissions break down across the various stakeholder groups. They give great insight into who thinks they will win, or lose, if the bill is passed.

The summaries below refer to the majority opinion of each of the stakeholder groups. In most groups, opposing views were expressed in the minority.
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University fees and participation: study of nine countries

 13 October 2014

Go8 logo

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The Group of Eight is working overtime making the case that fee deregulation would be “good”, won’t really affect students much –  what, with income contingent loans, they’ll hardly notice – and won’t have a deleterious impact on participation by people from low SES backgrounds.  This latest note is based principally on a study by Canadian higher education analyst Alex Usher.  Usher was recently in Australia and, while not “alarmist” , neither was he insouciant about the likely impact of the passage of the government’s higher education package:

HECS will still insulate students from the main financial consequences of the new fees, and so, as in Britain, they will likely absorb the higher fees with very little effect on enrolment. As a result, institutions will push the fee levels quite high because they can do so without fear of losing students (the exception will be students who learn at a distance – which is a more significant chunk of the student body in Australia than it is in most other OECD countries). The likelihood is that they will get quite close to the international student level – and they will do so at nearly all institutions.

The real question is: what will institutions do with that money? The likelihood is that every penny of the extra $5,000 – $10,000 per year students will be asked to pay will be ploughed back into research for prestige reasons. It won’t be the access disaster some are predicting, but it’s a bad deal for students nonetheless.

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Following the introduction of HECS, and changes to the system in the 1990s and again in 2005, several studies examined the impact of tuition fees on participation in higher education.  In particular, studies looked at the impact of fees on participation by people from low SES backgrounds.  In short, the literature finds that the reintroduction of tuition fees in 1989, and changes in 1997 and 2005, did not have a lasting impact on participation in general or by low SES students in particular.  Studies have found that income-contingent loans largely take fees out the equation: since fees can be deferred, they do not present a barrier to access.  Further, research finds that the persistent under-representation of low SES people in higher education is explained by limited opportunities at school as well as beliefs about the value of higher education, more than concerns about the cost.

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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 Minister Kim 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

1 October 2014

Charity

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Despite an evident mean spiritedness in the public sphere (the poor are unworthy, the unemployed are leaners, the “age of entitlement” is over), Australians are a remarkably generous people. In its third annual study of 160 countries, the Charity Aid Foundation measured giving behaviours across three criteria: volunteering, helping strangers, and donating money. Australians rated most highly.

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Charity

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