The full brezhnhev: a future for govt-uni funding compacts

Supporters of the demand driven system harrumphed in response to the Commonwealth thawing its freeze on undergraduate growth places, in favour of a new facility at Southern Cross University (CMM yesterday). This followed news last week that the feds had also committed growth places for a new University of the Sunshine Coast campus.  It certainly looks like a return to past times when those who lobbied loudest did best but a learned reader suggest that the government will stop this by using the proposal to allocate new students by university performance. Education Minister Simon Birmingham says the government will develop metrics to reward universities that meet agreed goals. While nothing is on the table yet attrition rates, completion times, employment outcomes are measured mentioned.

But while this might reduce the queue outside the minister’s office it could still end-up with government going the full-brezhnev. For a start, a learned reader suggests, universities will lobby to have the needs of their communities taken into account when deciding performance measures. And rewarding universities with additional places according to regional/national need, all based on appropriate performance measures of course, will appeal to ministers and officials who think government has to protect taxpayer interests. “They could call the agreements compacts,” the learned reader suggests.

Ah, “compacts,” sound familiar? They will be if you remember when Kim Carr was industry minister and “Silent Chris Evans was at education. Back in 2010 they created compacts as a way, in part, of stopping universities using demand driven funding to do what they liked.

“The agreements will relate the unique mission of each university to the government’s goals for the sector, and for the first time draw together information about the public funding received by each institution. … Compacts will also be the mechanism by which new teaching and learning performance funding is delivered to universities across Australia. Performance funding will increase the focus on quality and accountability and give incentives for universities to improve outcomes for students. Senator Carr said universities are integral to achieving a better educated and fairer Australia, with the compacts being an important instrument for universities to take more responsibility for their missions and priorities, including research and research training. …”

Timberlake’s Law: what can go around can come around.


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