Peak uni lobby sets terms for the coming education debate

The Innovative Research University group has seized the initiative in the debate on funding and sector roles in post-school education we will likely have, whichever party wins the federal election.

In the process IRU executive director Conor King makes the important case for his members, that higher education should be accessible to people across abilities. “There is significant value in providing open access to university education for all who think they will gain from it. We have repeatedly challenged wrong assumptions that universities should provide only for an elite group while others receive a less intensive skilling,” Mr King argues.

And he has a reminder for education lobbies intent on protecting their patches; “the point of focus for an effective tertiary discussion should be people, the skills and knowledge they aspire to, not providers.”

Mr King suggests:

* all Australians will need post school qualification(s) which can come from VET and/or higher education

* HE is not the exclusive preserve of “the best and the brightest”

* teaching-only institutions are not universities. “Other higher education providers do not need to hide under a familiar term, they need to establish their own offering. Resourcing, not title, is the real issue.”

* universities should be publicly funded for teaching and research. Not to do this will do to higher education what has already occurred at TAFE. “Funding TAFEs solely for the most efficient delivery of particular qualifications undermined their capacity to support the full skilling needs of their regions. Splitting the main university grant to target funds at two ostensible outcomes would cause a similar loss of university effectiveness.”


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