With his predecessor having seemingly gone cold on improving ”interconnectedness” between the VET and higher education sectors, new tertiary education minister Chris Bowen has signalled his willingness to look at the matter again.
Speaking at the UA conference, Bowen observed that in the course of structural adjustment taking place in the sector, innovative and entrepreneurial approaches to the delivery of higher education are emerging, often involving partnerships with the VET sector to expand access in regional and outer-urban growth corridors.
While acknowledging that this is exactly the kind of innovation the Bradley reforms were intended to drive, he needs “to be confident that such partnerships are in the best interest of both sectors and, more importantly, the student population, and are not being driven simply by revenue concerns”:
More clearly defined pathways into higher education, of course, will involve looking at the issue of how Commonwealth supported places at the sub-bachelor level are allocated. As you know, my predecessor took a decision in late 2011 to designate these courses in order to protect the integrity of the VET sector and to limit the potential for cost-shifting.
I have asked my department to prepare, in consultation with Universities Australia, advice to me on a principles-based framework to inform the evolution of a more inter-connected tertiary education sector. This should preserve the distinctiveness of each sector, but also allow room for the development of new ways of delivering tertiary education, potentially leading to the creation of new institutional forms and arrangements.
Among other things, in January former 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