The Australian | 20 February 2013
The Commonwealth government has stepped in again to block a degree-franchising deal involving Holmesglen TAFE, this time a proposed deal with Charles Sturt University to deliver CSU degrees in dental therapy and hygiene.
CSU vice-chancellor Andrew Vann said the decision late last year was “extremely disappointing” and he feared the university had been caught up in collateral damage from the inter-government funding fight.
Under the agreement, which had been in planning since 2009, Holmesglen was to have taught the first two years of a CSU bachelor degree in oral health in Melbourne, with students to then complete their final year at the university’s Wagga Wagga campus in regional NSW. CSU would have provided some video tuition to Holmesglen and paid the TAFE for its teaching out of commonwealth and HECS funding for the course. An intake of 40 students was planned.
Vann said the arrangement did not involve replacing a state-funded vocational qualification so there was no issue of cost shifting.
Holmesglen chief executive Bruce Mackenzie said he was “amazed” the minister had rejected an arrangement that would have encouraged health professionals moving to under-serviced regional areas. He also blamed federal “spitefulness” in its fight with Victoria.
The TAFE sector has been actively lobbying for access to more government places, arguing that it is cheaper, better tied to industry needs and likelier to bring in disadvantaged students.
However , in January then Commonwealth minister Chris Evans is said to have put a ban on further expanding the supply of government funded degree places to TAFEs until the government had assessed the full impact of providing unlimited places to universities (emphasis added because we haven’t seen this statement reported before).
Evans’ move has been interpreted as a bid to limit the government’s ballooning liability in the wake of the university sector expanding degree places faster than expected.
Mackenzie described current policy as incoherent. It’s certainly inconsistent in that encouraging collaborative projects between universities and TAFEs is a stated aim of policy and a raft of such projects have been approved by the Commonwealth and are being funded under the Structural Adjustment Fund program.
Evans sought to block a University of Canberra’s deal with Holmesglen to deliver UC badged degrees by invoking a clause in funding agreements that requires universities to seek approval before offering degrees at a different campus location.
We aren’t sure exactly what is happening with the UC-Holmesglen project because everybody is being remarkably shtoom. But we do know, as previously reported (UC programs begin at Holmesglen), a number of UC programs have commenced at Holmesglen’s main campus (and incidentally at MSIT in Brisbane. The programs involve a strong element of distance learning but also a reasonable degree of actual face-to-face classroom learning. in which Holmesglen provides learning support. About 200 students are enrolled.