Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Economic Reforms Needed to Australian Education

Jillian Broadbent

Greetings from the Australian National University where Jillian Broadbent, Chancellor of Wollongong University is speaking on "Will she be right? Macro and micro observations on economic policies". Chancellor Broadbent pointed out that universities are a major Australian export industry, with UoW having more offshore than onshore students (the "tipping point" was reached in 2012). She pointed out that universities currently cross-subsidize between faculties and also subsidize research from student education fees.

Chancellor Broadbent suggested that a new model was needed for university funding, but the matching of private to public investment can be "overplayed". She pointed out that the USA's private investment in university research is underpinned long term government policy and supported by large scale government funding through the health, defence and energy departments. 

Chancellor Broadbent drew particular attention to US Defence's DARPA, which funds research which can then be taken up by the private sector. She emphasized that government leadership and investment in research was essential alongside the private sector.

Chancellor Broadbent then discussed her role in establishing the Clean Energy Finance Corporation (CEFC). She pointed out that superannuation funds are reluctant to invest in the type of initiatives the clean energy fund was set up for. One of the more unusual investments of the CEFC was solar powered tomatoes.

Chancellor Broadbent commented that Australia was adapting to a Chinese tourism boom, with Chinese signs in Brisbane and squat toilets on the Great Ocean Road.

At question time I asked Chancellor Broadbent if a Productivity Commission inquiry into Australian universities was needed before the cap on fees as removed. She replied that Universities Australia had done some work on productivity and that an inquiry would be useful to show the public what universities provide and that they are productive. 

Later I found there have been Productivity Commission inquires into University Resourcing (2003), Exports of Education Services (1991), and Vocational Education and Training (2011 and 2012). But no inquiry into universities, or higher education, in general.

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