Business Council chief slams universities but calls for a unity ticket on education reform

Business Council of Australia chief Jennifer Westacott has accused some universities of immorality in their responses to the BCA’s Future Proof proposal for a single post-secondary education funding system.

“The view that came across was we’re fine, leave us alone, and focus on improving the VET sector, but make sure there is no impact on us.  I consider it immoral to make yourself better off at someone else’s expense, “she said in a UNSW speech, Monday.

“I was so disheartened by the response from some in the university sector that the Business Council had no right to venture into this debate, nor expertise in policy.  That as a representative of business we should focus on collaboration with universities. But ‘collaboration’ when it was unpicked really meant giving universities more money including for research, creating placements in companies for students, and paying universities to upskill workers.”

Ms Westacott repeated the BCA proposal for a lifelong skills account, which people could use in universities and vocational education and would remove distortions between the two systems.

“What we are trying to do is build an internationally envied post-secondary education sector in this country. And that means restoring the status and funding of VET, so both sectors get the recognition they deserve,” she said.

And she called for unity to force the government to end an unsustainable status quo. “When the experts in a sector divide, as the business community and universities are currently doing, we hand over the perfect justification to do nothing.  It’s a recipe for endless arguments and inertia.”

In its response to the Future Proof paper, Universities Australia began, “The paper contains some misconceptions about the higher education policy environment. These misconceptions influence the paper’s discussion of the issues and its recommendations in unhelpful ways.”


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