While prominent people are talking up an all of post-secondary education review as a way of getting university funding back on the agenda, policy veterans counsel caution. For a start, one says, a review could end up with money being moved from higher education into training, which sector Labour says is a priority.
“You would want to be pretty certain that the outcome would not simply lead to funds transfer from one sector to another that was found, through the review, to be in a mess and under-funded,” says one.
As for the possibility of the coming Higher Education Standards Panel review of university roles recommending teaching-only universities; no VC would ever volunteer, another deeply informed observer predicts. While research intensive institutions love the idea of securing research funds that now go to the other 20 public universities none of those will give up their research status. They would lose a competitive edge against non-university providers and find it hard to recruit academic staff who want to research, as well as teach.
Nor do observers, grizzled and otherwise, think all will be well, or at least better than it is about to be, if Labor gets a chance to act on its commitment to demand driven funding. Certainly, Opposition education shadow Tanya Plibersek said just before Christmas that Labor was fully-committed to the demand driven system,” a statement she repeated, sort-of, on Thursday, when she told Samantha Maiden on Sky TV, “we continue to be committed to a demand-driven system … we want a larger proportion of Australians to have post-secondary school education, whether it’s university or TAFE.”
Who says demand driven funding has to apply to higher education alone asks a policy veteran. “Labor will bank the Birmingham cuts and move to a moderated DDS.”