19 December 2013
Submissions to the review of the demand driven system initiated by education minister Christopher Pyne closed on 16 December 2013. University sector submissions support its retention and an extension to sub-bachelor places to create pathways for less academically prepared students. Submissions also propose readjusting fees, including a mechanism to allow full fees (IRU).
The introduction of the demand driven system and the removal of almost all caps on undergraduate places appears, on balance, to have been a positive reform for both students and the nation. All indicators suggest that maintaining the demand driven funding system will bring profound benefits for national productivity, social equity, institutional quality and students. Not including sub-bachelor courses in the demand driven funding system, however, could be creating a distortionary effect by encouraging individuals into undergraduate study when better suited to an enabling programme.
The IRU supports continuation of the demand driven funding to allow its full potential to be realized. The system supports universities to be more flexible and creative in responding to demand for their services necessitating changes in the approach to teaching and learning which challenge traditional models of the past half century. It has led to a valuable increase in enrolments which will flow through into a more skilled and educated workforce and society and it has assisted universities widen access to improve opportunities for people from backgrounds currently well under-represented to gain the skills and knowledge they need to prosper. The IRU proses that consideration be given to a single maximum student charge set up to the current highest maxima (which would involve fee increases for the majority of students and explore permitting universities to opt out of the Commonwealth funding system in certain disciplines to operate on a full fee paying basis for all students in that discipline.
The demand driven system (DDS) is supported by the ATN primarily as it is delivering greater numbers of domestic student commencements in the fields of education that industry requires. ATN universities have responded to the DDS through increased domestic student commencements in the fields of science, engineering, IT, creative arts and education by upwards of 20%. There has also been moderate growth in the fields of health and commerce and management. These students will be entering the workforce from 2014/2015. The ATN is supportive of limited extension of the DDS to sub-bachelor and postgraduate places in response to labour market needs and national skill priorities. This may also avert the bachelor level as being the most attractive entry point to higher education for students who are less prepared for university. The ATN proposes a 10% increase in fees.
The student demand driven system provides a vital framework for increasing the participation in higher education by regional Australians so that the regions have similar higher education attainment rates to capital cities. It has produced a sharpened focus for universities to develop their product portfolios and innovate in response to demand and markets. The Regional Universities Network (RUN) strongly supports the continuation of the student demand driven system for bachelor places, and extend ing the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places so that universities can provide pathways and preparation for less well prepared particularly low socio-economic status (SES) students.
The NTEU does not support a reimposition of caps on the total number or allocation of government supported student places between individual universities. Nor does it support an allocation mechanism based solely on market principles and would be opposed to any further deregulation of the current funding mechanism, including lifting the caps on HECS fees or making funding more contestable by opening it up to private non-university providers. It argues that the potential benefits flowing from the DDS could be substantially improved and the substantial risks (for all stakeholders, including the government) associated with its implementation ameliorated through a flexible but coordinated approach to the allocation of Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs).