The elite Group of Eight (Go8) universities have stepped back from a controversial proposal to dump the uncapped, demand driven system, a proposition it has been pushing for the best part of a year. The Group has argued that savings of $750m over 4 years that would flow from the introduction of a minimum ATAR of 60 for university entry could offset higher education cuts of nearly $4b announced since last October, including $2.8b earlier this year. But Fred Hilmer, Go8 chair and vice-chancellor of UNSW, now says that using an ATAR minimum to “regulate quality” is “too blunt an instrument” because of the impact it would have on the ability of disadvantaged students to access university….[ READ MORE ]….
Claire Field, chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (ACPET) has launched a scathing attack on the National Skills Standards Council (NSSC), the agency responsible for setting training standards, saying armchair experts are wrecking the sector. Speaking at ACPET’s national conference, she said that non-practitioners with a “predominantly classroom-based” view of training were setting unreasonable and unworkable standards….[ READ MORE ]….
The Coalition has promised to establish Trade Support Loans from 1 July next year to provide apprentices with interest free loans of up to $20,000 over four years. The loans will be capped at a total of $20,000 and will be repaid at the same thresholds as loans for university students. The policy is slated to cost $85 million to the federal budget four years. They will be available to apprentices training for a Certificate III or IV qualification that leads to an occupation on the National Skills Needs List, which includes nearly 70 trades….[ READ MORE ]….
The Coalition has announced details of its New Colombo Plan to foster closer ties between Australia and the region and develop stronger people-to-people links. The original Colombo Plan saw some 40,000 students from Asia come to Australia from the 1950s to the mid-1980s. The New Colombo Plan will be different the original, in adding an outward-bound component to the original one-way street. Once operative it will provide financial support for up to 300 young Australians studying in the region every year….[ READ MORE ]….
Leesa Wheelahan and Gavin Moodie head to Canada
Leesa Wheelahan is leaving the University of Melbourne at the end of the year to take up the William G Davis Chair of Community College Leadership at the University of Toronto. At the University of Toronto, Leesa will join the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. OISE was established in 1965 to promote educational research and graduate studies. In 1996 OISE merged with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Education which was established in 1906.
Leesa will be accompanied by her partner Gavin Moodie who will maintain adjunct positions with the University of Queensland and his current employer, RMIT. Gavin will continue his public commentary (most notably his regular comment pieces in The Australian) and his research, which currently is investigating the implications of MOOCs by examining the effects on higher education of an earlier information revolution: Gutenberg’s invention of printing in 1450.
The idea of fees and the Australian university
This is a transcript of the 2013 Newman Lecture delivered on Wednesday 21 August 2013 at Monash University’s Mannix College. It’s an interesting account of the development of the Australian university system, drawing from mainly English traditions but also Scottish, European and American. But this is not just an historical survey. In the week in which UNSW v-c Fred Hilmer stepped back a little from his strident calls for caps on enrolments, Davis makes the case that “markets ” lead to innovation and diversity. It’s a relatively long and interesting piece in itself but scroll to the end for the point. With the election of an Abbott government almost certain, the argument within the university sector moves on from the merits or otherwise of the demand driven system to the merits or otherwise of fee deregulation.
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For 20 years, Australian universities have worked simultaneously in two worlds – one public, highly regulated, and deeply constrained, the other international and more like a private market. The first is the world of domestic undergraduates, where Canberra sets strict rules about price and entry. The second is the market for international students, where universities can make choices about where to recruit, what to charge, whether to operate within Australia or set up offshore.
Not surprisingly, the world of domestic students remains largely undifferentiated. Australian universities offer a very similar array of programs to domestic students, with no price competition allowed. Only in the global market has real and important difference emerged.
Required to make independent strategic choices, universities differ greatly in their approach. A number prefer large offshore operations, as teaching programs or with an overseas campus that reproduces the ambiance and values of the home institution.
Others run an on-shore strategy, working with feeder schools, international agencies, foundation colleges and other players to build significant international revenue. A few universities have changed their entire curriculum in an effort to orientate themselves toward graduate education for Australian and global students.
Pressures for change necessitate urgent reflection on the role and purpose of a university. Professor Gaita has expressed eloquently his concerns about the trajectory of Australian institutions. His call to 10 argument is timely. For though the Australian tradition has endured with little change to date, stately progression along a deep path may halt abruptly under commercial pressures.
Markets end the incentives to uniformity. They require diversity, since not every institution can occupy the same niche. Markets reward innovation and punish the slow-moving. They destroy and build simultaneously.
On current Commonwealth funding rates no Australian public university can survive without a strong international cohort. As a result, innovation is transforming the singular Australia idea of a university. As the market approaches, the familiar road comes to an end.
What really matters in education
There’s been a lot of discussion about how much money is needed in schools, but very little about how those funds should be administered, teacher standards or student outcomes. In this video, former ABC journalist and Rudd Government Parliamentary Secretary Maxine McKew talks to education analyst Professor John Hattie about the issues that are missing from current discourse. (Click here to read a transcript of their discussion)
News, views policies and links on the 2013 Federal election.
The University of Melbourne presents the 2013 Faculty of Arts Winter Series of masterclasses designed to expand horizons, enliven the mind and enrich the soul this Melbourne winter. The masterclasses are scheduled over a series of weekends in winter and into spring, featuring the university’s most celebrated teachers and public intellectuals.
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