Claire Field’s second-look at HE changes (they’re still huge)


What the minister wants looked big last week, it still does

My comments last week (CMM June 22) that Minister Tehan’s reforms would be the most significant since Dawkins’ triggered quite some discussion on Twitter. To be clear, my reference to Dawkins was not because I had forgotten Gillard’s (or Howard’s) reforms.

Gillard’s reforms notably included establishing TEQSA, increasing research infrastructure funding, participation/equity targets, new indexation arrangements, and crucially the demand driven system. Tehan’s changes go beyond his June 19 announcements and include:

 Changes impacting students:

* ~40 per cent of students will pay 93 per cent of the cost of their course (assuming no change in enrolment patterns, per Chapman and Norton) – a major shift towards full-fee places

* price signals which counterintuitively encourage enrolments in courses with poorer employment outcomes

* additional support for regional students, and

* international student numbers likely to be impacted by new prudential requirements.

 Changes to teaching:

* all universities now offering micro-credentials/short courses (albeit with no future funding certainty)

* changed course funding rates following Deloitte’s latest analysis (eg environmental studies’ funding reduced by $10,000 per year), and

* “growth through efficiencies” delivering 39,000 extra places – likely leading to more online delivery and casual teaching.

 Changes which shape institutions:

* the introduction of a “funding envelope”: to enable flexibility and/or specialisation

* university colleges likely in future to receive government funding as teaching-only institutions

* increased information being published on institutional performance

* a research grants programme for regional universities to boost their capacity

* a merit based research funding “pipeline”, and

* an increase in university research requirements – the Coaldrake Review recommended universities must achieve world standard research in 50 per cent of their broad fields of education by 2030. Two public universities are currently below this threshold. Eight more have only recently reached it and may struggle (in a restricted funding environment) depending on the new benchmark.

And to this list we now add TEQSA’s new role safeguarding the ‘integrity’ of the changes.

Claire is joined on the latest episode of the ‘What now? What next?’ podcast by Andrew Norton, Conor King and Luke Sheehy to discuss the reforms. Listen in your favourite podcast app or online.