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The Scan #179 5 May 2016

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A few cuts, no frills

Budget 20164 May 2016   |   The government has pushed consideration of proposed university reforms, including a 20% cut in funding, out beyond the election, until 1 January 2018.  While it has ruled out full fee deregulation, it has released an options paper, to guide a consultation process, canvassing a range of alternative fee measures which would still see substantial fee rises.  The 2016 Budget also sees an efficiency dividend of $1.2 billion on legislated dropped but the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program has been cut by $152 million to $553 million over four years.  The Office of Learning and Teaching has been abolished, with the resulting $18 million in savings going to TEQSA and the Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching website.  The consultation paper presages changes to FEE-HELP, including dropping the repayment threshold from around $54,000 to something in the range of $40, 000 to $45,000.  Over $2.5 billion dollars in unlegislated funding cuts remain on the books….[ MORE ]….

Rescuing VET FEE-HELP

4 May 2016   |  The federal government has proposed a set of tougher measures to fix the VET FEE-HELP blow-out in a discussion paper released onVET FEE-HELP pic 29 April.   The minister for vocational education and skills senator Scott Ryan said the paper will pave the way for a full redesign of the scheme. The discussion paper catalogues the scale of malpractice by some providers, such as the targeting of low socio-economic status and vulnerable people with inducements to enroll and misleading potential students about their repayment commitments.  It proposes a series of measures to improve the integrity of the system including minimum eligibility requirements for VET FEE-HELP, reductions in the lifetime student loan limit, a narrower range of eligible courses, a VET FEE-HELP ombudsman, and payments tied to compliance and student progression….[ READ MORE ]….

International education strategy launched

 

flags14 May 2016    |   With international education worth nearly $20 billion to the Australian economy in 2015, the government has provided $12 million in the Budget to fund the National Strategy for International Education 2025 released on 30 April.  In three parts, the strategy identifies international educationas one of five “super growth sectors” that will help complete Australia’s transition from a resource-based economy to a modern services and knowledge economy.  The strategy aims to help grow the sector by 50% to 720,000 international students by 2025.  A separate economic study indicates that international education supports over 130,000 jobs across Australian and delivers substantial indirect benefits to other industries such as tourism and retail….[ READ MORE ]….

Phoenix chief faces forgery allegations

28 April 2016    |    Ivan Brown, who ran one of Australia’s fastest-growing vocational colleges, Phoenix Institute, is being investigated for allegedly Phoenixforging documents to reap more than $100 million in taxpayer funds.  Federal Police search warrants say they have “reasonable grounds for suspecting” Brown, the made false documents or caused them to be made “with the intention to influence the Commonwealth to accept on-line students as genuinely enrolled and participating in training”.  Meanwhile a report by the failed company’s administrator claims that the education department owes ACN $253 million for people signed up to courses of study.   It also shows that ACN paid its brokers between 15 and 30 % of the value of its courses to the salesmen who recruited students – up to $12,000 per sign up.…[ READ MORE ]

 

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Election 2016

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Tax, budgets and equity

4 May 2016 

As we draw nearer the election, the findings of a recent ANU opinion poll ought to resonate with the politicians, as ANU vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt observes – particularly those given to characterising the “politics of equity” as the “politics of envy” (that being our observation, not Schmidt’s).  It is unlikey to though: with the political class, only two polls count – Newspoll and the actual poll on 2 July.

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The ANU School of Politics & International Relations regularly conducts national telephone opinion polls on issues of political and social significance.  The latest, the 21st in the series, was on the issue of tax and equity.  Should we be worried about governments holding debt? Which areas of spending should have priority, and which can be cut? Should we pay more tax, or less?  Is our tax system generally fair?

More Australians favour greater spending on social services than favour reducing taxes.  If reducing government debt is the aim, cutting welfare payments is among the least popular options, according to this poll.  Australians want more spending directed to health, domestic violence prevention, education, and disability and aged care. They want international companies operating in Australia to pay more tax here, but overall believe our tax system is moderately fair.

On education, around 80% thought the government should spend more money on education,  just 2.2% of Australians polled nominated education as “the most important problem” facing Australia today.  It ranked thirteen, way behind the economy and jobs (27.2%), just ahead of law and order (1.8) and somewhat ahead of taxation (1.2%) and the budget (1%), although at the levels of granularity involved, these rankings may not be entirely reliable.

ANUPoll

 

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Commentary box

Running, jumping, standing still

Higher education in policy paralysis

The Conversation     |    4 May 2016

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What now? asks Gavin Moodie (RMIT) in The Conversation. While across-the-board full fee deregulation has now been dumped by the Coalition, fee deregulation of so-called “flagship courses”, first mooted in the Review of Base Funding in 2011 (with the significant qualification that such fees be capped at plus 50% above what they would otherwise be), looks a hot prospect for a  re-elected Coalition government  (as does a raising of the cap on other courses by some percentage). That is, of course, still moot: an incoming Labor government would be ostensibly committed to additional public investment in higher education.  Whichever side wins will have its hands full,  And there’s the likely prospect that whatever the colour of the government, it will not have a majority in the Senate.

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UNIVERSITY STOCK

This year’s budget set us back to 2014.  In the 2014 budget, the government announced that fees would be deregulated. While this was a toxic political move, it wasn’t toxic enough to be dumped from the 2015 budget, which was another lost year for higher education.  While, this year, the government finally ruled out full fee deregulation, it is still contemplating uncapped fees for some courses in its higher education consultation paper. It has also dropped all the worthwhile proposals from 2014, such as extending the demand-driven system to sub-baccalaureate programs.
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Salutary lessons from overseas

High caps and deregulated fees

5 May 2016

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As we begin to address again the issues of university funding, the relative student contribution and student loans, it’s salutary to look to overseas experiences.  In the England, the Cameron government didn’t fully deregulate fees, it merely tripled them.  There are now real questions as to whether students are getting deal (“value fro money”).  Meanwhile in the US, home of the $100,000 degree, the affordability of higher education is said to be a “crisis” and is key issue in the forthcoming  presidential election campaign, at least from the Democrat side.    And we would do well to heed the advice of Swinburne University vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson

quote marksWe should be wary of significant changes to the funding model which would detract from the egalitarian quality of Australian higher education.

 

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Government FAIL: Some universities are ‘not good enough’ to charge top tuition fees

A SECRET document snapped outside Downing Street has revealed the government believes its £9,000 tuition fee cap for students has been a failure.

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The government file captured by a press photographer has shown many universities cannot justify charging the top-rate fee.

It also warned the UK “will never achieve” David Cameron’s pledge to double the number of students from poor backgrounds going to top universities.

Fees tripled from £3,000 to the maximum price of £9,000 less than four years ago, after the Liberal Democrats failed to deliver on their manifesto pledge.

Thousands of students then took to the streets and rioted over the policy, which ministers claimed would only be a price cap that would apply to the very best institutions.

But since it was launched in 2012, almost all universities across the country have chosen to charge the top price.

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Can the next President actually save public universities?

The crisis of college affordability may not be solvable by the federal government: It has had much less control over tuition than state policies.

Students walk on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) campus in Los Angeles, September 18, 2009. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES EDUCATION) - RTR280TN

The nap pods that popped up recently at the University of California, Berkeley, may be exacerbating a problem they were designed to fix. Intended to help relieve student stress, the egg-like pods cost approximately $100,000 total. A significant student stressor at Cal is rising tuition, and while the pods add up to about $3 per student, paid for in student health fees, the symbolism is galling to students who will graduate with as much debt as the pods cost.

As the editors of The Daily Cal, the university’s student paper, wrote, students aren’t sleep-deprived because of lack of beds but “because of the overwhelming pressures they face.” More naps do nothing for mounting student fees, and the pods appear to ignore deeper structural reasons for student stress: The average Berkeley student leaves the school more than $17,000 in debt (the national average is $29,000, for public and private colleges).

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Life & stuff box4

4 May 2016

A lecture on quantum physics

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During Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in April 2016, a journalist jokingly asked the Prime Minister to explain quantum computing. He called their bluff with a spot-on explanation. 

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See
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau lauds “cutting-edge research” at Perimeter
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 The VET Store

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The VET Store is a  service by the VET Development Centre which provides access to a range of information to support VET practitioners in the work they do.

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