Productivity Commission has a bob each way on demand driven funding

But while the PC sees pros and cons it says pressure will continue to expand higher education

The Productivity Commission has given the government the only-line it will ever need to justify it’s destroying demand driven funding of undergraduate places, “university will not be the best option for many. Viable alternatives in employment and vocational education training will ensure more young people succeed.”

The PC’s new report on DDF is far more nuanced than that and provide ample evidence to upset everybody with a dog in the debate, but this is one report that conservative critics of the ever-rational commission will quote.

Critics of the system will like PC points:

* additional students (who accessed university because of DDF) started university with weaker literacy and numeracy and were more likely to drop-out

* expanded access, “increases fiscal costs and, for students ill-suited to higher education, can waste their time, build up debt and cause them to forego alternative job or education options.”

* participation of young people from Indigenous and regional/remote backgrounds “changed little 2010-16.” “Those who grew up far away from a university campus benefited little from the expansion.”

* Overall participation of students from the four equity groups, low SES, first in family, Indigenous, regional-remote, “declined slightly

But supporters will report commission conclusions:

* while there isn’t evidence on labour market outcomes for students from equity groups who went to university because of the demand driven system, all equity group graduates have work outcomes the same as all graduates – with 60 per cent in professional/managerial occupations

* improving literacy/numeracy school outcomes “may” reduce under-representation of equity groups

* 30 per cent of students enrolling in university because of DDF access had previously studied in the VET system

Overall the commission sets challenges to assist equity groups: The PC puts-up three hurdles providers should help equity groups over;* university access, * academic outcomes * labour market transitions

The DDF is gone, but more HE access is set to stay: Overall, expanding higher education is inevitable, the PC states. “The long-run pressure will be to continue to increase the size of the sector given that the historical shift towards jobs requiring complex cognitive skills is unlikely to abate.”


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