Glyn Davis’s “simple plan” for demand driven funding

The UniMelb VC says there is a better way to organise where undergraduates study

The “Melbourne model” of publicly assisted undergraduate degree-plus professional masters will go under the government’s proposal for student-centric masters funding. But that’s not the big reason University of Melbourne VC Glyn Davis thinks it is a stupid scheme.

As well as anthology of operational issues, the scheme is “just another marginal measure to deal with the great unmentionable,” (except by Group of Eight vice chancellors, CMM adds) “Commonwealth concern about the cost of the demand driven system.

“To avoid an argument about the affordability of the demand driven system, government instead finds savings in the margins – another shaving of funding rates, a lift in student debt, cutting the number of supported places for graduates.”

“These are incremental savings designed to avoid dealing with the real issue. They are cuts you make when you do not want to confront the underlying challenges of paying for the demand driven system. If the demand driven system is unaffordable, we should say so and agree a sensible way to preserve equity and quality yet contain overall spending,” he said yesterday.

And Professor Davis just happens to have a sensible way, which he explained yesterday at the AFR conference.

“The Commonwealth should negotiate a Commonwealth Supported Places envelope with each university. This would allocate a maximum number of CSPs available to an institution, following a dialogue about community needs, local labour markets and university goals.

In return for accepting constraints on further growth in domestic student numbers, such institutions would be allowed to allocate their Commonwealth places in whatever configuration works best.

Let each university find its optimal mix of sub-bachelor, diploma, bachelor and graduate programs, refining these over-time in response to market signals, including areas of national priority and workforce demand.

Such an arrangement would require no special deals, but empower every university to produce a course profile that best serves their public.

For institutions in communities not yet at a 40 per cent participation rate, the demand driven system must continue its important work. Outer metropolitan institutions, and those in regional Australia, should continue growing but also be empowered to configure their load in ways that best serve their area. If more sub-bachelor pathways make sense for one institution, and more graduate programs for another, let them so decide and act.

This simple policy change preserves the objective of the demand driven system, while dealing with its financial implications. It would allow each institution to configure according to its own strategy without undermining Department of Finance budget estimates.”

The government call them “compacts”.