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Apprentice numbers slump

Apprentices28 June 2016    |     The number of apprentices across Australia has plunged since the Coalition took office, government figures show, with some of the steepest falls occurring in high-unemployment marginal seats still up for grabs at Saturday’s election.  Western Sydney has lost 10,642 apprentices and western Melbourne 4782, while the national total fell 28 per cent from 383,562 to 278,583, between December 2013 and December last year, documents obtained under Freedom of Information and NCVER data reveal.  Labor claims the falling take up of apprenticeships is a direct result of the $1 billion stripped from trades support programs since the change of government, including the abolition of the ‘Tools for Your Trade’ (TFYT) program – which paid $5500 to apprentices over two years – and other training and mentoring programs.  The Coalition replaced the program with a loans scheme which has been taken up by just 40,000 apprentices in the past two years.  Labor proposes to reintroduce TFYT as a grants scheme of $3,000….[ READ MORE ]….

 

Labor proposes polytechnic network

Polytechnic def

28 June 2016      |     A Labor government would establish 10 Commonwealth Institutes of Higher Education, on a trial basis. They would involve universities and TAFE Institutes working together to deliver associate degrees and advanced diplomas.   At a total cost of A$430 million, 10,000 Commonwealth Supported Places would be available.  These “HECS” places would be funded at 70% of the normal rate.  This essentially creates a new layer of tertiary education, not unlike colleges of further education in the UK, delivering “foundation degrees” or community colleges in North America.  Students could study a two year sub-bachelor, higher education course at one of these institutions, then if they wish to complete a full degree they would receive credit for study to date. At that stage they would go on to a normal HECS place at a university, which would be 100% funded during the final year. The idea, it seems, is to have a network of such tertiary education institutions, bringing together the best of applied higher education and vocational skills training into institutions that are not funded to do research….[ READ MORE ]…..

Vic TAFE boards finalised

Board

28 June 2016    |     Board appointments for Victoria’s TAFEs have been finalised, with 65 people recommended for ministerial appointments which take effect on 1 July.  An independent panel was set up to provide advice to the government on the best people to serve across the 12 TAFE institutes.  An expression of Interest process saw 513 people apply to become board members with 239 candidates interviewed.  Women make up 54%  of the directors.  Along with the ministerial appointments, the boards will consist of the institute CEO and a staff-elected member.   An interim chair has been appointed to each board, until the board elects a permanent chair….[ READ MORE ]….

Go8 propose uni enrolment caps

caps28 June 2016    |  The elite Group of Eight universities have proposed that the Commonwealth government reintroduce limits on how many students each university can enrol, a suggestion slammed by other vice-chancellors.  Group of Eight chair Michael Spence said the uncapping of university places in from 2009-21012 had blown out the budget by billions of dollars while leaving important university research underfunded.  He went on that, with the target of 40% of young people with an undergraduate degree in sight, “it’s time to declare victory on university participation and focus on the core problems for university funding.”  The proposal was rejected by current education minister Simon Birmingham who said he had no desire to dictate how many students each university should enrol.   Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor was typically acerbic, describing the Group of “as a group of profiteers who would do anything for their own self interest.  The politics of this are cancerous.”.…[ READ MORE ]….

The equity of schools funding

28 June 2016    |    Private schools are outspending Victorian public schools by four to one, splurging on rowing tanks, pilates studios and sky decks.  Some top private schools have spent up to $70 million on capital projects over the past few years as part of a facilities “arms race” to lure students.T he state’s biggest spender, Carey Baptist Grammar School, shelled out about $11.4 million in 2014 on a new learning and innovation centre at its Kew campus. It follows a recent analysis showing the average government funding of some of Victoria’s most elite private schools increased eight times times the rate of the neediest public schools….[ READ MORE ]…..

Education spending beats corporate  tax cuts

28 June 2016     |      Spending on education will produce a bigger economic growth dividend in the long term than cutting corporate tax, according to a new survey of economists.  As Labor and the Coalition go head-to-head on their centrepiece economic policies, a survey of 31 economists by the Economic Society of Australia and Monash Business School has found almost two-thirds agreed with the statement that:

Australia will receive a bigger economic growth dividend in the long-run by spending on education than offering an equivalent amount of money on a tax cut to business.

However, many economists added the caveat that the quality of education spending was critical.  Of the economists surveyed, 29 per cent strongly agreed with the statement, 35.5 per cent agreed, 12.9 per cent were uncertain, 16.1 per cent disagreed and 6.5 per cent strongly disagreed….[ READ MORE ]…..

Coaltion: no frills

Liberal

This is as announced in the Budget on 3 May – the Coalition has made no further policy statements 

28 June 2016   |   The government has pushed consideration of proposed university reforms, including a 20% cut in funding, out beyond the election, until 1 January 2018.  While it has ruled out full fee deregulation, it has released an options paper, to guide a consultation process, canvassing a range of alternative fee measures which would still see substantial fee rises…..[ MORE ]….

Rescuing VET FEE-HELP

This is as announced in the Budget on 3 May – the Coalition has made no further policy statements

28 June 2016   |  The federal government has proposed a set of tougher measures to fix the VET FEE-HELP blow-out in a discussion paper released onVET FEE-HELP pic 29 April.   The current minister for vocational education and skills senator Scott Ryan said the paper will pave the way for a full redesign of the scheme. The discussion paper catalogues the scale of malpractice by some providers, such as the targeting of low socio-economic status and vulnerable people with inducements to enroll and misleading potential students about their repayment commitments.  It proposes a series of measures to improve the integrity of the system including minimum eligibility requirements for VET FEE-HELP, reductions in the lifetime student loan limit, a narrower range of eligible courses, a VET FEE-HELP ombudsman, and payments tied to compliance and student progression.   ….[ READ MORE ]….

 

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Election 2016

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The election outcome

There’s really not much to say, is there?  TDA summed it up from a tertiary education perspective, saying the uncertainty of the vote itself  is compounded by a curious lack of policy commitment from the Coalition, which did not release any skills policy or higher education  policy during the campaign…..[ READ MORE ]….

The Policies

Labor

Of its “100 positive policies”,  about 20% (19 to be precise) are in tertiary education.  In higher education, Labor has committed to maintaining the demand driven system, backed up by a Student Funding Guarantee to provide “certainty to universities and remove the need for higher fees”.  Labor also proposes to create 10 “polytecnics”, a hybrid institution, which would  involve universities and TAFE Institutes working together to deliver associate degrees and advanced diplomas.  Labor proposes a comprehensive review of the VET system and to take measures to preserve the viability of the public provider network (TAFE).  It proposes an $8,000 cap on VET FEE-HELP loans, with room for exemptions where a higher loan can be justified.  It will restore the “Tools for Your Trade Program” with up to $3,ooo paid to eligible apprentices to purchase their tools….[ READ MORE ]….

 

 

 

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Coalition

Having made higher  education “reform” a red button issue in its first term – remember  how Christopher Pyne was going to “fix it” after it was voted down in the Senate for the second time?? –  the Coalition has been totally  quiet  on it during this election period.   It released a discussion paper with the Budget on options for reform, including partial fee deregulation via a limited number of “flagship” courses.  Meanwhile, cuts to university funding of 20%, while not enacted, remain on the books.   In VET, the Coalition has released a discussion paper canvassing measures that might be implemented to close down the wholesale rorting of the VET FEE-HELP scheme.  Interestingly, this includes a possible capon loans, as proposed by Labor but criticised by the Coalition….[ READ MORE ]….

 

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Greens

The Greens propose to boost funding  to the university sector by $8.3 billion over four years, comprising

  • $7 billion to reverse the Coalition’s funding cuts and fund a 10% increase in base funding per student at public universities; and
  • $1.306 billion into research to reverse Government cuts to  university research.

They propose to reduce  students’ HELP costs by 20% and to reinstate the Student Start-Up Scholarships as a grant rather than a loan.  the annual cost of $1.403 billion  will be more than offset by continuing the ‘deficit levy’ on a permanent basis for those earning over $180,000 per year.  In VET, the Greens have a simple three point plan:

  • Cease providing federal government funds to forprofit VET providers.
  • Implement a TAFE federal rescue package which boosts funding by $400 million a year.
  • Establish a VET Ombudsman with $10 million in seed funding

…[ READ MORE ]….

 

UA Policy

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Election watch

Election Watch is a guide to the 2016 Australian federal election run out of the University of Melbourne’s School of Government.

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Commentary box

Student loan caps must be part of total redesign of vocational funding system

28 June 2016

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Labor proposes to  introduce a cap of $8,000 on student loans for vocational education and training (VET) courses.  A course loan cap is a sensible option, but it must form part of a total redesign of the VET FEE-HELP student loan scheme in the first instance, and of the whole VET funding system in the longer term, writes Peter Noonan in The Conversation.

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skills (1)

Currently, there are no loan caps for courses where providers set their own fees and don’t receive a course subsidy through the states.

The Labor proposal is to set a maximum loan cap of $8,000 per course funded under VET FEE-HELP (except for some high-cost courses approved by the education minister). The cap doesn’t extend to higher education diploma and advanced diploma courses.

For those courses that are subsidised by the states where fees are regulated, the Commonwealth and the states already have in place fee benchmarks of $5,000 in 2011. This regulated fee is effectively a loan cap.

Unsurprisingly, most of the expansion in VET FEE-HELP and all of the problems with unscrupulous provider behaviour have been in the unregulated fee area, where some providers have charged fees of over 400% more than the price paid by the states for the same course.

The government itself has raised the option of capping loan fees in its recently released VET FEE-HELP discussion paper.

It’s an option the government should have considered last year in its initial reforms to VET FEE-HELP.

The government capped overall provider loan limits at the provider’s 2015 loan levels, but while restraining overall VET FEE-HELP payments, this measure did nothing to reduce excessive fee and loan levels for many courses.

However, if loan limits are to be introduced for VET FEE-HELP, the rationale for setting the loan limits must be carefully thought through.
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Higher education gets short shrift in the election campaign

A small target strategy

28 June 2016

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Stephen Parker, the soon to retire vice-chancellor of the University of Canberra, was an implacable opponent of the  Coalition’s university deregulation package.  But from being a red hot issue during most of the last term of Parliament, higher education has hardly figured in the election campaign.  The Coalition has slipped the electorate a mogadon and seemingly got away with it.  The mogadon will wear of after the election, should the Coalition returned.

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AUSTRALIA - UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY SYDNEY PROTEST

Higher education policy during the Abbott government was highly controversial and probably a component of Tony Abbott’s undoing.

Not since the Dawkins reforms of 1989-90, if at all, had higher education been so prominent in public debate.

In his 2014 Budget, then Treasurer Joe Hockey proposed to reduce the Commonwealth Grants Scheme (CGS) to universities by 20%. But he would allow tuition fee deregulation, so that domestic undergraduate students could be charged up to the fee levels of international students, subject to a requirement to create a scholarship pool for students from low socio-economic (SES) backgrounds. Commonwealth-supported places (“HECS” places) were to be extended to sub-degree courses and to private providers.

A real rate of interest would be applied to graduate debtors, existing and future, but this was dropped in an attempt to get the measures through the Senate.

Most commentators agreed that fee levels under deregulation would have risen substantially, perhaps by up to 300%: far more than was required to replace the 20% cut to the CGS.

Relative absence of competition would give most universities the headroom to do this, and the international evidence was that universities do use up all the headroom they are given.

Students would be prepared to pay, it was said, because the income-contingent loan scheme blunted the price signal.

By the time students knew what they had done and whether their degree had been a good investment, it would be too late and they would be saddled with significant debt until middle age.

The opposition Labor party built a campaign around “$100,000 degrees”, and critics raised the spectre of the Americanisation of Australian higher education.

The measures were defeated twice in the Senate, higher education was nightly news, and the eyes of the university world were on Australia.

Pushed aside

Given this background one might have expected higher education policy to be front and centre of the 2016 campaign.

But while there has been some distant yapping, this dog has not really barked at all. Why?

One reason may be that Liberal higher education policy is now obscure; perhaps deliberately so – a small target strategy.

Their policy document on education contains almost nothing on universities. It is claimed that “under the Turnbull government, funding for universities is at record levels” at over A$16 billion, but this is the result of an expanded sector introduced in the Rudd-Gillard era.

Similarly, it is said that support for students through the loan scheme is at a “record level”, but this is also the consequence of previous Labor government policies.

The National Innovation and Science Agenda to drive stronger university collaboration with industry is actually a new policy, but at $127 million it barely registers.

So, if we are to divine what the real Liberal higher education policy is we must dig into the 2016 Budget and interpret comments made by the education minister and prime minister during the campaign.

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Can we really afford to not invest more in education?

28 June 2016

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The Australian newspaper has been running a none too sophisticated campaign against the boost in education spending of $37 billion over the next decade promised by Labor. It’s a mish mash of half-truths and contortions of logic, as is often the case when The Australian goes politically feral.

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OECD

Labor has drawn on an OECD report, Universal Basic Skills, to supports its argument that increased spending on education not only contributes to equity and social inclusion but is an investment in future improvements in productivity (and, indeed, Malcolm Turnbull’s Ideas Boom).  It’s a proposition with which most economists agree.

It’s actually a complicated report, which can be hard to follow, so I don’t fully follow the reasoning entirely myself but I bet I’m doing better than The Australian. But the basic proposition is quite clear:

Setting aside any social and cultural benefits, the attainment of universal basic skills in a country by 2030 would have a substantial positive effect on medium and long run economic growth driven by productivity gains.

The definition of “basic skills” used in this report is “the acquisition of at least level 1 skills (420 points on the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This level of skills to “modern functional literacy” (the report has a booming definition of functional literacy (see below).

The report says that the projected economic gains of attaining universal basic skills “would be stunning for all countries – even high income OECD countries”.

In general, by 2095, GDP would be 30% higher than that expected with today’s skills level, representing the result of an annual growth rate that, in the end is 0.5 percentage points higher.

Is that really a lot?

Well, the current GDP of the US is around $US16 trillion: it would see a present value of gains of over $62 trillion.

 

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28 June 2016

Cartoons of the Campaign

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For a complete compendium of Cartoons of the Campaign check out Political Cartoons Australia.  The cartoon below is by David Rowe of the Australian Financial Review.

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Rowe Campaign 2016

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 The VET Store

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The VET Store is a  service by the VET Development Centre which provides access to a range of information to support VET practitioners in the work they do.

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