Group of Eight adjusts and advances

With the end of demand driven funding (at least the uni-only Mk1 version) its every lobby for itself, as uni-groups position themselves for more government regulation (if the coalition stays in power) and/or more competition from the public training system (if Labor wins the election).

Yesterday Group of Eight CEO Vicki Thomson demonstrated how her members will adapt, whatever happens.

In an opening statement to a Senate committee inquiry, Ms Thomson signalled that her members could coexist with TAFE; “It is not true that only university entry holds the key to a future career. TAFE must be returned to a position of value; seen as a respected and much needed partner in post-secondary education, not treated as a lesser education stream.”

This is smart and painless politics for the Go8.  Other unis will struggle but the Group of Eight will not lose out if higher and vocational education have to compete for student places in the same federal funding system. Ms Thomson also backed another Labor policy, a review of the entire post-secondary system. “It ought to be a national priority to have the courage to unpick Australia’s post-school education system with a comprehensive national review,” she said.

And if the demand driven system stays dead she has constructive ideas on how to work in a world where student-growth is regulated.  The country needs, “high level strategic advice on workforce and employment forecasting,” to make the most of investment in undergraduates. “Such a body is even more critical as we move from a demand driven system to a system which reflects the needs of Australia and our economy.

“The now-defunct Australian Workforce and Productivity Agency was enabled to undertake research and develop long-term strategy in key areas that informed industry activity and direction.” Workforce analysis might also explain how despite oft stated demand, “a significant proportion” of recent STEM graduates in full-time work do not use their skills or expertise.

It was the usual realpolitik from the Go8 which knows how to work with whatever the electorate provides.


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education