Claire Field on the big Accord issues


The Universities Accord Panel’s Discussion Paper canvasses a wide range of topics, asking 44 questions as it looks to craft a new vision for the sector


In responding to the issues raised in the paper, my submission provides answers to approximately half the paper’s questions by attempting to answer seven broader questions:

* what higher education funding arrangements are needed?

* which students get access to Australian higher education?

* what kinds of higher education institutions does Australia need?

* how to encourage quality teaching and learning?

* what level of digital capability is needed

* how do we encourage more lifelong learning?

* how do we strengthen VET pathways?

I argue for a range of changes – and some parts of my submission drew heavily on the recent five-year Productivity Review and Andrew Norton’s earlier Accord submission. My recommendations include:

*  a return to demand driven funding including additional funding for research activities

* additional funding for regional universities

* retaining the existing flexibility in how universities use their CSP funding

* student contributions aligned to average expected earnings

* removal of administration fees on FEE-HELP loans for students at non-university higher education providers

* that some of the extra places needed for the Costello baby boom students be allocated to Table A universities (and some to other providers)

* as there is increasingly no meaningful difference between Table A and Table B (which do not receive funding for Commonwealth Supported Places) universities, the latter should be eligible for CSPs

* clearer data for prospective students on the overall cost of their loans, average expected earnings, and labour market forecasts by occupation to support more informed study choices

* publishing annual data on the diversity of university senior leadership and university governing councils

* publishing annual institutional data on the diversity of international student cohorts, and

* re-thinking the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching

In relation to my last three questions – I did not settle on specific recommendations to the Panel but instead argued that:

* despite universities needing to make major changes to embrace the digital age – the challenge is less about funding than culture

* government funding for lifelong learning should predominantly focus on lower-skilled workers (ie not prospective HE students), and

* university funding rather than the AQF or the competency-based nature of VET is what is principally holding back more higher education-VET pathways for domestic students.

Claire Field is a consultant and advisor to the tertiary education sector. Her submission is available on her website.


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