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The Scan Edition # 165 7 November 2014

Acquire in ASQA spotlight

Acquire Learning7 November 2014     |       The marketing practices of Acquire Learning, chaired by former AFL chief Andrew Demetriou, are being investigated by the Australian Skills Quality Authority (ASQA) following complaints about cold calling and inappropriately ¬enrolling jobseekers who had ¬applied for positions advertised on the Seek employment website. Acquire itself is not a registered training organisation, but works as a broker allocating students to individual providers. Acquire has been the subject of complaints whereby jobseekers applying for positions are pressured into undertaking private tertiary study, in some cases becoming burdened by debts of up to $8000….[ MORE ]…..

ACPET heads for self-regulation 

4 November 2014     |      With controversy over dodgy marketing and poor quality courses among some private Registered Training Organisations and with third-party Printbrokers exploiting government subsidies in vocational education, the Australian Council of Private Education and Training, the private sector’s peak body, is to fast-track a new code of conduct and a standards framework to be externally monitored and validated. The monitoring and validation will cost members money but ACET says any reluctance about paying higher costs should be offset by the need to protect the reputation of quality providers. According to new ACPET chief executive Rod Camm “some may complain that we are just making it harder, but it isn’t about making it harder, it is about protecting member’s integrity. If we lose our reputation we lose everything. Our industry is not going to bury its head in the sand and pretend there isn’t a problem with a small minority of providers. We will not sit idly by while the behaviours of a few tarnish the reputation of many”  ….[ MORE ]…..

Row erupts at Vocation 

3 November 2014     |      The board of embattled education and training provider Vocation has expressed full confidence in managing director and CEO Mark Hutchinson Vocationafter the company’s largest shareholder and one of its founders dramatically demanded he be sacked in the wake of a 60% crash in its share price. This followed an audit that revealed  compliance failures, leading to Vocation paying back $19.6 million in Victorian government funding.  In an interview with Channel Nine’s Financial Review Sunday, Vocation founder and former executive Brett Whitford called for Hutchinson’s removal as part of an aggressive management shake-up and threatened to call an extraordinary ¬general meeting (EGM) if the board did not act swiftly. But in a statement released to the sharemarket on 3 November, -Vocation’s board of directors declared Hutchinson is the best person to lead the company and the ongoing restructuring of its troubled Victorian business. The company’s board of directors also rejected suggestions by Whitford that he should be appointed a director. It said that, while Whitford remains a shareholder, he was dismissed from the company for breach of contract ¬earlier this year and plays no part in the company’s board or management…..[ MORE ]….

Too many “known unknowns” creates uncertainty 

2 November 2014   |    With the government’s university reform package, which includes funding cuts and fee deregulation, apparently stalled in the Senate, The University Interest ratesof Melbourne has been unable to draw up a budget for next year due to uncertainty. In an email to staff on 31 October, vice-chancellor Glyn Davis said that because of the “known unknowns” concerning higher education funding in coming years, the university was unable to plan with confidence for next year, or beyond that.  He said there  are too many “known unknowns”   with key financial measures for the sector remaining  untested before the Senate. He posed the question that “should the government’s plans for deregulation not prevail, as many predict, who knows what policy settings will follow?”….[ MORE ]….

Labor’s calculator of doom

Fee increase31 October 2014    |       As part of its growing campaign against the Abbott government’s deregulation of university fees, Labor has launched its own “calculator of doom” which shows that in a “best case” scenario in which universities simply raise fees to cover proposed funding cuts, female nurses and teachers could face cost increases of about 60% once interest repayments are included. Under the best case scenario, a female nurse would end up repaying $32,245 for her three-year degree over nine years, up 66% from $19,410 under current arrangements. If prices rose to international student levels she would eventually repay $56,643 over almost 15 years. A male business student under the best case scenario would see their total repayments rise just 27% for a three-year degree to $43,656 that would take 8 years to repay. But if fees rose to international market levels, his repayments would rise to $94,473 and take almost 13 years to repay. But unless and until a deal is done on the package – and universities have set their fee regimes – we just don’t know what loan debt future generations of students will be carrying….[ MORE ]….

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31 October 2014

Snapshot of VET in Australia

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Infographic-Students-and-Courses

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NCVER has released four infographics that provide an overview of publicly-funded training based on NCVER’s main data collections:


• Students and courses – including key findings from Young people in education and training
• Apprentices & trainees
• VET finance
• VET outcomes – drawing key findings from Student outcomes and Employers’ use and views of the VET system.  

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Milestones

ATN’s new director

 

Renee Hindmarsh7 November  2014      |       The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) has appointed Renee Hindmarsh as its new executive director, succeeding Vicki Thomson who has taken up the executive director position at the Group of 8. She commenced on 3 November. Hindmarsh was previously a director of Barton Deakin Public Relations in Melbourne. She has worked as a chief of staff, senior adviser and media adviser to successive Liberal ministers.  A graduate of Monash University, she has a very strong knowledge of the Australian higher education sector. The ATN says that Hindamarsh has “a superb blend of the attributes the ATN requires in this critical leadership position – advocacy, media and communication experience, public policy skills and a close knowledge of the workings of our political institutions.“…..[ MORE ]….

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31 October 2014

The Scan in October 2014

Top Ten

In October The Scan published 47 posts, considerably lees than usual, and only published 2 editions, rather than the 4-5 in a usual month.  Early in October, we suffered what seemed to be a catastrophic ICT event , which turned out merely to be a bit of a disaster but limited activity (nothing to do with viruses and worms!).  As note last month  Scan readers seem to be drawn to a whiff of controversyand the runaway controversy in October were the regulatory travails of the ASX-listed training provider Vocation (and which seem to have some way to run yet). University fee deregulation featured highly, with advocates and opponents lobbying hard through the month,  ahead of a Senate committee report on the legislation and anticipated debate in the Senate (yet to happen).  The arithmetic of the Senate seemingly dooms the package, with Labor, Greens and PUP opposed – but who knows.  The Palmer team has shown a certain flexibilty, quite conducive to backflipping.  A surpise top post concerned James Baraz’s mother, which was originally posted in November 2012 and in October enjoyed more views than in the preceding 2 years.

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Comment & analysis

Senate committee report on uni fees

Sector responses

30 October 2014Fee increase2

It’s hardly news that all the university groups are as one that there is no alternative to fee deregulation to provide the funding to maintain the quality of Australian higher education (given declining public funding). They are not as one on how the proposed Commonwealth Scholarship scheme funding (provided by students) should be divvied up: the Group of 8 and ATN argue the money should be held and disbursed by the collecting institution, the RUN and IRU argue that it should be pooled and disbursed on a needs basis.

quote marksLet’s not kick the can down the road for another generation to grapple with and risk the quality and competitiveness of our higher education system.

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6 November  2014

Senate impasse creating all round uncertainty

Too many “known unknowns” (2)

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Go8 logoThe Group of 8 consideration of the negative impact of the legislative impasse in the Senate on the government’s higher education package comes on the back of Melbourne University stating that it is unable to frame a budget for next year or beyond because there are to many “known unknowns.   Neither can you say that its prognostications about the likely impact on other areas of university funding, such as research, are unreasonable: the government  seems set to effect at least its savings, one way or another.  Elsewhere, the Grattan Institute’s Andrew Norton suggests a freeze on student numbers would be on the cards if the deregulation package is ultimately  blocked in the Senate.

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Following the release of the report of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee on 28 October, debate commenced in the Senate on the second reading of the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 on 29 October but was suspended that evening. The Senate is scheduled to resume sittings on 24 November for two weeks before rising for the year. If the Bill is not passed in an amended form by 4 December, the Government may wait for a period in the first half of 2015 before reviving debate. Such drift would exacerbate anxieties among school students and parents who are already confused by misleading claims of exorbitant fee rises. It would also raise serious questions about timeframes for implementation.
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31 October 2014

Uni fee deregulation will result in choice and value?

Don’t hold your breath, says Schwartz

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Steven SchwartzSteven Schwartz was vice-chancellor of Macquarie University from 2006 to 2012 and is currently director of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Interestingly he is an academic advisor to Centre for Independent Studies, libertarian thinktank “actively engaged in supporting a free enterprise economy and a free society under limited government where individuals can prosper and fully develop their talents”. With this background, you’d think Schwartz would be a natural proponent of university fee deregulation. You’d think wrong . In this opinion piece published in The Australian on 29 October Schwartz demonstrates himself to be somewhat of a sceptic that fee deregulation will result in a market in which price will reflect course value.

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In 1989, the federal government set undergraduate university fees at $1800 a year. If prices had increased in line with inflation, the fee today would be $3481.

Instead, university fees range from $6044 to $10,085, vastly outstripping inflation.

This stratospheric increase would be an argument for government-mandated price controls except for one problem: the government did control univer­sity fees during the entire 25-year period. And it still does.

Without government price ceilings, university fees would have soared even higher. Vice-chancellors certainly wanted them to. If university prices are deregulated, as the government proposes, they will get their chance.

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Swinburne Media Centre    |     6 November 2014

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As the cross bench senators weigh up the government’s higher education reform package, including university fee deregulation and student loan interest rates, they might well consider a comparison table released by Swinburne University of Technology  to assist in the evaluation of four policy options that have been canvassed to moderate against excessive student fee increases from 2016.

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Experts have predicted that the price of degrees will increase significantly from 2016.  The proposed flat fee of $16,000 per year announced by the University of Western Australia for 2016 represents an increase over 2014 prices, ranging from +56% (Bachelor of Commerce) to +166% (Bachelor of Arts).

Any price rises from 2016 are likely to be compounded by the operation of the HELP scheme, which ensures that price signals are weak for consumers at the time of purchase. There will be no upper limit on the amounts that students can borrow either for undergraduate or postgraduate degrees from 2016.

A number of mechanisms have been proposed to moderate likely fee increases from 2016. Swinburne University of Technology has proposed an annual student loan limit (a ‘soft cap’) as one means of exerting downward pressure on price from 2016.  Other options that have been canvassed include  an advisory committee, a pricing regulator and the establishment  of new maximum student contributions for higher education  (a ‘hard cap’).

This resource presents how each of these four policy options would work and how strongly each would operate to produce downward pressure on prices set by higher education providers from 2016.

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LH Martin Institute – Associate Director

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The Institute is currently advertising for the position of Associate Director. The successful applicant will be responsible for furthering stakeholder engagement as well as ensuring the suite of activities developed are meeting the needs of senior leaders and managers in the tertiary education sector. Excellent leadership and negotiating skills are essential.

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Life & stuff

Of no fixed address

30 October 2014

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Ferouz Myuddin, born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital in November 2013 after his mother Latifar, an asylum seeker, was flown in from detention on Nauru because she needed a Caesarean section, has been deemed by Federal Court judge Michael Jarrett to be an “unauthorised maritime arrival“, and therefore cannot apply for the visa under current laws.

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Feroz

Face of a criminal??

The family arrived at Christmas Island in September 2013, having fled Myanmar citing persecution for being part of the Muslim Rohingyar minority.

Much of Judge Jarrett’s ruling examined the concept of how baby Ferouz “entered Australia”, and whether the interpretation of the legislation applied to his birth. However, he found that the law determined any asylum seeker who arrived by means other than an aircraft was deemed an unauthorised maritime arrival.

Shaun Micallef considers the threat to national security threat posed by such unauthorised arrivals.

 

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