Plibersek puts demand driven uni enrolment on the agenda

Any members of the Australian Council of Deans of Education who thought Tanya Plibersek would tell them that everything wrong in teaching is the government’s fault was disappointed with the Labor education shadow’s speech on Friday.

She questioned the academic ability of students accepted into teaching degrees; “I remain very concerned about the academic aptitude of some students being accepted into teaching education. While the ATAR certainly is not a perfect measure of the likely aptitude of a teacher, the trends in ATAR scores for education courses are of concern.”

And she queried the quality of the degrees they do. “It seems unfair to students paying to undertake a university course that at the conclusion of a four-year degree they do not possess passable literacy and numeracy skills. It makes me question how that student was able to commence that degree and certainly how they were able to graduate.”

Ms Plibersek went much further, suggesting that the demand driven system was a problem in teacher education.

“When last in government Labor uncapped the undergraduate system, and gave universities freedom to enrol as many students according to demand. We are proud of that reform but also conscious of the risks to the system it entails.

“In particular, the risk that, with freedom in the system, and the lowering of entry marks, universities are enrolling in teaching courses to meet their business plans rather than addressing genuine demand. It’s up to you – the university community – to show leadership here and ensure we have high-quality courses for students who should be there.  … But we cannot have universities falling for the pressure of ‘letting a few more in’ just to satisfy short-term financial interests.”

Letting a few more in” is a line that Labor in office could use to make the case for caps. Perhaps this is a one-off that applies to teaching degrees or perhaps Ms Plibersek is laying foundations for a big policy change.


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