Tehan spells it out to unis; “if you deliver, we will deliver”

The education minister asserts the government’s authority in higher education and previews transformative plans

Tehan makes it plain: “For too long the higher education sector and the government have stood apart and lectured each other about the future direction of higher education policy,” Mr Tehan told an AFR conference yesterday.

“These debates have typically proceeded from false assumptions on both sides – on the one hand, that the role of government was simply to hand over taxpayer funds and not invest in a partnership as to how those funds are used. On the other hand, many have presumed that public funding should be the sole determinant of the institutional focus of universities.

Neither proposition is sustainable or in the national interest.”

What unis need to know: The minister set out the government’s “comprehensive agenda” for higher education and emphasised the HE sector’s core role in delivering. And he made it plain universities should cooperate, “if you deliver, we deliver.”

What will happen: Mr Tehan set out challenges, including,

* implementing the coming Coaldrake review of HE category standards. In what may be (or maybe not) a signal of what is to come, Mr Tehan described the review as in part examining, “whether we have a system that focuses too much on differences between types of universities and ignores the diversity of the non-university providers by lumping them in one category.” In an assurance that will create conniptions among defenders of the status-quo Mr Tehan added, the government was committed “to work with the sector to implement the findings.”

* work arising from the Noonan review of the Australian Qualifications Framework. “Institutions are increasingly working with industry to offer micro-credentials and the development of essential capabilities – this needs to continue.

* establishing senior secondary pathways to HE, VET and work, (as per the new Shergold review (CMM yesterday)

* industry-HE links on graduate employment. “Preparation for future careers needs to be embedded in students’ courses right from the start.

* working collaboratively on “best-practice guidelines for dealing with foreign interference and “ensuring freedom of speech and academic inquiry.”


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