Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Australian Higher Education Reforms Revised Implementation

Yesterday the Australian Government announced the "HigherEducation Reforms — revised implementation", which has been reported in the media as a "$2.1B cut". This caps funding to universities for bachelor degrees at 2017 levels, reduces the income level at which students have to begin repaying loans, fixes the pool of research funds at the current level and limits postgraduate places. However, this is less than the cuts the government planned (but could not get through the Senate). A larger issue is the proposed 2020 performance requirements, which if based on completion rates, could require universities to discriminate against students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have a lower completion rate.

The Australian Government appears to limit its scope of reform to a few cuts and attempt some form of market mechanism (which has been tried and failed in the UK university system). There appears to be no policy initiatives to take into account the changes in the way education is being provided, with the adoption of flipped, workplace and on-line learning, nor that education is now a major Australian export industry. The current approach appears reminiscent of government manufacturing industry policy, which resulted in the collapse of the Australian automotive manufacturing industry.

Higher education is undergoing a technological and vocationally driven change world wide. The Australian government is not addressing these changes, or helping Australian universities to adapt. The result may be that the Australian university system is not viable within the next five to ten years. Some campuses will likely be retained as the local shop-fronts of off-shore on-line institutions (such as Torrens University in Adelaide) and a few will survive as research centers. However, we may see the closure of most universities in Australia, when they are no longer viable.

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