Divisions in deregulation lobby encourage compacts call

Plus ACU says Pyne plan  protects demand driven funding 

Short run

Enterprise bargaining at the University of New South Wales started late and still drags on. The university community is still at that stage of the process where National Tertiary Education Union members strike for the ritual 24 hours, tomorrow. At the cost of a day’s pay it is an expensive industrial theatre ticket.

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Money makes the vision thing

While people are upset with Chris Pyne for threatening to cut research infrastructure by ending NCRIS last night the minister was spending up, launching QUT’s new $19m ARC Centre for Robotic Vision. The centre has money for seven years, which is more, around 6 and a half years more than anybody working on an NCRIS supported scheme has,

Kim and Jeannie plan to drain the swamp

Friday’s Senate Committee hearings on the Pyne package demonstrate deregulation is well and truly stalled in a swamp of discord, with no industry, let alone community, consensus for change. There are now three basic positions. The first, and most common demand is more money for universities but not from students. A second group made up is made up of once united vice chancellors who want more money and who are happy to extract it from undergraduates, but there is no consensus on how students should pay. Yesterday’s intervention by the Group of Eight in support of the Pyne package makes the point – unless supporters of market based fees stick to what is now on offer it will be years, if ever, before there is a consensus. But advocates of the third position have a clear goal. Labor’s Kim Carr and the NTEU’s Jeannie Rea are pushing purposefully through the bog of blather to build a new Jerusalem on the rock of regulation.

Senator Carr is still keen on compacts, the scheme he introduced as industry minister with then education minister Chris Evans. Compacts, the pair said in 2010, “relate the unique mission of each university to the government’s goals for the sector, and for the first time draw together information about the public funding received by each institution.” Compacts featured in a major speech by the senator late last year and he talks darkly of universities churning out graduates in disciplines where there is no work, something regulated enrolments could supposedly stop.

The union is even more outspoken in support of central planning, calling for “a flexible but co-ordinated system for the allocation of commonwealth-supported places using strategic funding compacts between universities and government to agree on the number of places to be offered. … The compacts would be renegotiated every three or four years to give greater certainty in terms of public outlays as well as providing universities with the necessary stability to invest in capital works and staff.” The agreements would also ensure; “a better understanding of future workforce needs and tertiary education enrolments also would give government the opportunity to overcome market failure and provide students and universities with incentives to pursue certain areas of study.”

AHEHCF 2015 Conference

This is a long way from the creation of a price-based market in undergraduate education that Senator Carr and the NTEU got into this fight to stop. But with all the other ideological alligators snapping at each other the comrades see an opportunity to drain the swamp and take us back to regulation. Yes, there is plenty of evidence that university managements loathe compacts – but this does not get any of them anywhere when they can’t agree on an alternative.

Environmentally uncomfortable

The University of South Australia reports a talk by one if its academics, who “is building his own B&B out of car tyres. ” Uncomfortable bed, inedible breakfast

ACU endorses Pyne as a fair-go plan

The Australian Catholic University supports the Pyne package‘s commitment to the demand driven system of funding in higher education and extending it to sub-degree places as a major contribution to equity in its submission to the Opposition initiated Senate committee inquiry.

“The DDS is designed to meet growing workforce demand for university graduates by funding universities on the basis of student demand for courses and industry need, rather than through central allocation of places by the Commonwealth. The demand driven system has enabled 190,000 additional students to receive a university education. Under a capped system, these students would have been deprived of this opportunity, and Australia would be further behind in its efforts to meet workforce shortages and boost national productivity.”

And to make the bipartisan point ACU explains at length how DDS is the creation of the Rudd-Gillard governments. The argument is plainly made and deliberately directed to Labor’s Kim Carr who has said DDS was created to deal with specific circumstances of demand and need not be a permanent policy. Thus ACU warns; “the continuation of the DDS, with all its manifest benefits, is not something that simply can be taken for granted within the Australian higher education system. Its maintenance in the context of the policy environment proposed by the bill therefore is a major point in that bill’s favour from the aspect of equity and opportunity. ”

It’s not often these days that Mr Pyne‘s plan is praised for its commitment to a fair-go

 Super honeypot

Using superannuation to pay for university study was floated a couple of weeks back and it struck people who would be able to jack up their course costs accordingly as a splendid scheme. The idea is that borrowers would repay their super accounts out of the increased income degrees would deliver. Of course it was too good to last and now the property industry is saying super could be used for home deposits on the same basis. Less retirement income stream more magic pudding.

In breaking news

The University of Sydney announces the induction of Sir Ronald Irish into the Australian Accounting Hall of Fame (please note the absence of a predictable joke about this being an oxymoron).

Sir Ronald pioneered tertiary education for accountants and was a research leader at the university. But accountants don’t rush into things in honouring their own. Sir Ronald died in 1993.

Where regional ends and rural begins

Deakin VC Jane den Hollander is appointed to the Victorian Government’s review of regional development. I wonder what makes Professor den Hollander, with campuses at Geelong, Warrnambool and in metro Melbourne more ridgy didge regional than David Battersby, whose Federation University is in Gippsland, at Ballarat and has outposts in the Wimmera. Perhaps he will get a guernsey on a rural review.

NCRIS looks better

Every now and again the campaign to keep the Medical Research Future Fund lifts itself up from its intensive care bed to feebly warn people will keep dying without the $20bn last year’s budget intended to create from Medicare payments. And nobody much pays any attention. In contrast the campaign to keep funding for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy only got-going a week or so back and already has a huge profile. I’m guessing NCRIS has a much better life expectancy, what with people pointing to hardware that needs maintaining as distinct from the endless demand for medical research money.

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Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au