The Australian | 21 August 2013
The outgoing head of the National Centre for Vocational Education and Research (NCVER), Dr Tom Karmel, has lamented the slow progress on implementing a ‘seamless’ tertiary education sector, as proposed by the Bradley Review.
Karmel says the promised integration between higher education and vocational education is “more distant now than ever”, while overstated differences between the sectors are producing dysfunctional outcomes.
If you’re a dual-sector institution, for example, you’ve got completely different rules for everything – how you do your buildings, how capital is treated. That can’t be an efficient way of doing things.
Greater integration has been hindered in part by another key proposal from the Bradley higher education review.
One of the major things Gillard did was uncap undergraduate places. If the caps had been removed such that TAFEs, for example, could also start offering degrees under those arrangements, that would have made a big difference. You have this tension between making universities more demand-driven, but at the same time constraining who provides the places. That took the steam out of it.
Other commentators agree that progress with the integration agenda is not only a long way off but suggest that higher education would become an even more dominant partner if there were to be “forced marriage” with vocational education.
Higher education red tape reviewer Kwong Lee Dow said a single tertiary sector could not be contemplated “with any genuine reality” for the next three to five years.
I don’t think we’re ready for it. The danger would be that (VET) would increasingly succumb to the higher education culture. It would diminish the importance of a lot of certificate programs and links with industry.
Destination data from Victoria’s annual On Track Survey reveals the increasing dominance of higher education. More than 53% of surveyed students who left school last year said they planned to go to university, up from 41%10 years ago. The proportion planning to enter training courses, apprenticeships or traineeships had plunged from 32% to 23% across the same period.
Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said the autonomous nature of universities makes an integrated tertiary sector improbable.
I can’t see it ever happening. Universities are part of civic society, (with) autonomy over who they bring in as students, who they hire as staff, what they teach and what they research. That just doesn’t apply to TAFEs or private colleges. A single regulator would break on the difficulties of homogenising a single regulatory regime.