Demand driven system: gone but way not forgotten

There’s something for everybody in the Productivity Commission’s report on the demand driven system

The lobbies looked for conclusions they liked in the PC’s mixed findings on the now abolished system of demand driven funding of UG places (CMM yesterday)

Universities Australia focused on the positives, pointed to limitations – the PC only looked at students under 25 in assessing “additionals” who started university under DFF and embraced the reports overall conclusion – “the long-run pressure will be to continue to increase the size of the sector given that the historical shift towards jobs requiring complex cognitive skills is unlikely to abate.”

TAFE Directors Australia liked different bits, particularly the PC’s point that people went to university who would have been better off in training. “This should be a wake-up call that a blinkered and uneven approach to skills and learning is not only bad policy for the nation, but is leaving some individuals vulnerable and disadvantaged as they cope with a rapidly changing workplace,” TDA’s Craig Roberston said

The always-on-message Regional Universities Network warned the PCs picture is incomplete, not including mature age students outside cities.  “Regional universities must have the ability to grow places to allow more regional students to undertake higher education and close the gap in university attainment between the regions and cities.”

The full-on policy people of the Innovative Research Universities warned that by focusing on recent school leavers the PC ignored a third of the additional students who accessed university because of the demand driven system.

And they pointed out that despite suggestions that students enrolling in uni would better off in training the PC report shows 30 per cent of additional starts due to DDF were people who previously had tried training. “This suggests those students were aware of VET opportunities and now wanted higher education to follow.  Demand driven strengthened the pathways between the sectors.”

The IRU also picks up on the PC’s emphasis on the links between school and tertiary education, calling it “a major outcome.”

“The commission is concerned that literacy and numeracy levels for school leavers have dropped, meaning that all entrants to university are likely to be that much less prepared.  When students reach essential thresholds of knowledge and capability they are better positioned for university and other tertiary providers to build on those foundations.”


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