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Great 8 propose caps on enrolments

Fairfax Media    |  15 June 2016

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The elite Group of Eight universities have proposed that the Commonwealth government reintroduce limits on how many students each university can enrol, a suggestion slammed by other vice-chancellors as “cancerous” and “selfish”.

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The Group has released a paper calling for a “moderation” of the demand-driven system that allows universities to enrol as many students as they want.

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Group of Eight chair Michael Spence said the uncapping of university places in from 2009-21012 had blown out the budget by billions of dollars while leaving important university research underfunded.

Simply enrolling more students in underfunded places is not in the best interests of the country

We are on track of meeting the goal of 40% of young people with an undergraduate degree by 2025.

It’s time to declare victory on university participation and focus on the core problems for university funding.

Spence, the vice-chancellor of the University of Sydney, said the government should consider placing an overall cap on the number of students each university can enrol and let them decide how many students are enrolled in each discipline.

This would allow the government to invest more money directly into research.

Spence said it was important students are given a “genuine choice” about whether they should study a vocational course rather than go to university.

Education minister Simon Birmingham rejected the proposal, saying he had no desire to dictate how many students each university should enrol.

The demand driven system has particularly provided low socio-economic students and Indigenous students with greater opportunities to enrol in a higher education course.

The alternative to the demand driven system is to return to a world where Canberra bureaucracies decide what university places should be available and where.

Australian Catholic University vice-chancellor Greg Craven said capping university places would see more disadvantaged students locked out of university.

The Group of Eight has no interest in equity or opportunity for students – this is all about money.  This is a group of profiteers who would do anything for their own self interest.  The politics of this are cancerous.

Charles Sturt University vice-chancellor Andrew Vann questioned the Group of Eight’s motives, given university enrolments appear to be stabilising.

This is a selfish idea because they have been naked about the fact they want to shift the money into research.  That might help them move up the global rankings but would it really help Australia?

Peak body Universities Australia has been a strong supporter of the current demand-driven system, saying it has significantly expanded access to higher education.

Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton, who conducted a major review of the demand-driven system for the Abbott government, said arbitrary limits on student numbers were a “bad idea”.

This would lead to more behind-the-scenes backroom deals and I’m not convinced that would be a good process.

See

Large growth in student numbers is threatening sustainability of university system

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