Government performance metrics for growth funding

It took a year to deliver on Simon Birmingham’s threat, but the government has announced it will tie growth funding for student places to performance measures.

Where this came from: In MYEFO 2017 the then education minister suggested some funding could be tied to metric outcomes for each university suggesting, “student experienceattrition and completion rates and graduate outcomes.” Senator Birmingham said the government had two years to get the model right ( CMM December 19 2017). It now has 12 months with his successor Dan Tehan announcing performance based funding reforms would be in place for 2020.

In MYEFO 18 Mr Tehan announced University of Wollongong vice chancellor Paul Wellings will lead a panel to advise the government on measures to allocate growth funding, based on national population increase. Professor Wellings and colleagues will provide an interim report by end March and final advice on June 30.

Who’s helping: The other members of the panel are; ACU VC Greg Craven, Rufus Black, VC UTas, Dawn Freshwater, UWA VC, Sandra Harding, James Cook U VC and former senior Commonwealth official, Barbara Bennett.

How to do it: To assist universities which want to make a case to Professor Wellings and his colleagues the government has published a consultation paper on what metrics could merit money, and how much.  This will not be difficult –  the detail in the discussion paper is such that it appears the government already knows what it wants

Principles for performance measures are: * relevance per outcome, * within a university’s control, * measured on relevant and reliable data, * applicable to all unis, * cost-effectively and not burdensome on providers and government, * “appropriately accurate and expeditious”

Principle for benchmarks: * achievable yet aspirational,” * based on “sound, reproducible methodology,” * responsive to institutional change, * institution “context specific”.

The feds will assess performance in August and advise institutions how much they will get in September.

How much:  Not much is how much. The performance pool is based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics population growth rate for 18-64 year olds, which for 2020-30 is projected to be 1.1-1.2 per cent, translating to $70m per annum, split across all eligible providers.

Options: There are seven significant questions up for consultation. Should the funding pool be national or regional. Should a university’s performance funding per year be added to its subsequent maximum basic grant amount or be kept separate. What performance measures should be used, from student experience, outcomes and equity categories.  Should universities be allowed to choose some of their own assessment measures. How to rank performance. Should money not awarded to a university go back in the pot. What is the lag between year of data and year of payment.

Will it happen: This may not depend on who wins the election. Labor is committed to reinstating demand driven funding but the party is also keen on university accountability. The draft national platform which went to the party’s national conference last month, included; “Labor will ensure universities are accountable for public funding and work in partnership with the federal government to deliver outcomes in the national interest. Labor will introduce national interest thresholds for university funding agreements that ensure universities align their resources to their areas of strength and strategic interest so the sector as a whole more effectively addresses our national priorities and needs.” A small-ish competitive funding pool allocated along these lines would surely not contradict any commitment.


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