No accounting for equity programmes and what to do about it

Matt Brett (La Trobe U) calls for comprehensive change in student equity in access programmes, in a major report for the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education.

Mr Brett warns that targeted equity groups have not changed since they were established in 1984 and that with the Commonwealth spending $300m on higher education equitable access programmes a balance is needed “between institutional autonomy and the need to demonstrate accountability for policy goals and public funds.”

“The Australian Government is moving towards some performance funding and these reforms will provide lessons and opportunities to further embed equity as a design feature of a fair, accessible high-quality system,” he suggests.

He points to four foci for reform.

Updating and refining equity goals: The rights and needs of individuals and groups vary by institution and region. Systems are needed to meet local and national priorities.

Improve info management: “To produce better quality research, policymakers need better quality data — and this means clarifying what data is collected, improving how it is managed, and making better use of the data that is already collected.”

Link equity outcomes to funding: “Equity may be embedded in system design and university strategies, but this is insufficient for improving equity outcomes if not combined with accountability. As the higher education sector stands on the cusp of major reforms, there are opportunities to embed student equity within new policy paradigms. ”

Analyse, report and communicate outcomes: “Because reporting is so fragmented, we are not sure what best practice actually looks like … we need better reporting of data, better analysis of broader datasets and better communication of the outcomes of data analysis to all stakeholders.”


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