Friday, October 26, 2018

Teaching Universities Proposed for Australia

Griew, Borthwick, Barnes and Murali (2018), have proposed a new category of teaching university for Australia, along with invigoration of the VET sector. The most controversial aspect of this is removing the current cross subsidy of research from course fees. Course fees would be lower, with increased government research grants.

Existing Australian Teaching University Models

Australian law currently requires universities to carry out research in at least three disciplines. The proposal is to have a new category of teaching university. There are already Australian institutions devoted to teaching, but these can't be called a "university", and so have difficulty marketing their programs.

However, there are Australian universities which have been able to operate under the current rules, with a teaching focus. Two examples are Open Universities Australia (OUA) and Torrens University Australia (TUA).

OUA is a consortium of universities offering online degrees. Students can choose courses from any institution, but then graduate from one. This provides the flexibility of an on-line program, but with the prestige of a bricks-and-motar one. TUA is registered as an Australian university, but with a relatively small staff. It is part of a international consortium of mostly teaching universities.

Research Reputation as a Key University Marketing Tool

 What Griew, Borthwick, Barnes and Murali (2018) don't address is the role of research as a university marketing tool, particularly for attracting international students. Students, and their parents, look at university ranking when selecting an institution. This is despite these rankings having little to do with teaching quality, being largely based on research reputation. A teaching only institution will not rate well for research, and so not attract students.

Will Teaching Only Universities Lower Costs?

The claim that separating research and teaching would lower costs would need to be tested, along with the claim that the savings would go to research. The UK has had the experience where government freed up fee setting expecting completion leading to lower fees, but universities charged as much as they were allowed to. Also if government take funding from fee subsidies, there is no guarantee this will be invested in research.

Focus on Fixing VET

The proposals for the VET sector are less contentious. Successive Australian state and federal governments have implemented poor policy, badly implemented, which has adversely effected VET and TAFE institutions. An approach which encourages students to study in the VET sector, before, alongside and after university should be introduced.


Robert Griew, Jessie Borthwick, Cameron Barnes & Arun Murali (October 2018). "
Diversity in Australian tertiary
education: turning words into action", Nous Group, url

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