by Matt Brett
Many voices are calling for a reimagination of tertiary education (KPMG Mitchell Institute and NCSEHE). Transformation would be aided by policy makers, institutions, and scholarly communities embracing transparency in policy, planning, actions and evaluation.
Reimagination is part and parcel of higher education. Universities endure across centuries because they mediate what Clark Kerr once described as “the tug of the anchor to the past with the pull of the Holy Grail of the future”. This mediation creates tremendous social and economic value, although it is notoriously difficult to quantify.
We remain reliant on proxy indicators for assessing the value of higher education. Information about entry requirements, student experience and graduate outcomes is better than ever, but gaps remain in what is published and how it is actioned. The higher education data collection includes little about fast-growing third-party arrangements. There are limited consequences for changes in equity performance.
The bulk of higher education data remains hidden from view, but there is a trend towards transparency. Prospective student decision-making is now empowered by Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching and Transparency in Admissions.
The transparency trend is not absolute. University financing has long been distorted by special case allocations, evident in sub-bachelor and postgraduate places, now extended to variations in the Maximum Basic Grant Amount.
A commitment to transparency of higher education information would enable scholarly communities, institutions and policy makers to better evaluate change and communicate the value of the sector. The looming departure of the Grattan Institute from the higher education landscape highlights collective over-reliance on an individual to navigate access to data and interrogate it effectively.
A step forward in quantifying value can be found in Deakin University’s 2018 Annual Report, the first to adopt Integrated Reporting, charting a path towards the sector-wide Holy Grail of transparency.
Director Academic Governance and Standards
Equity Fellow, Nation Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education 2017