Uni responses to Wellings funding plan: realistic resigned, relaxed   

Policy wonks were quick into the weeds, with expert analysis of methodologies and funding outcomes for university groups. Peak bodies appear reconciled to working what they are going to get

 Innovative Research Universities chair Eeva Leinonen (Murdoch U VC) says, “The IRU will work constructively with the government to get to a fair outcome. The IRU welcomes the government’s commitment to adjusting the measures over time. In that sense, the proposed funding mechanism is a beginning, not a final blueprint.”

The Group of Eight “has consistently supported the development of the Performance Based Funding framework on the basis that it was underpinned by clarity, simplicity and transparency,” UWA VC (and Wellings’ panel member) Dawn Freshwater stated.

“While the measures are not strictly objective or direct measures of university performance, they do provide focused incentives for universities to improve their already strong performance in delivering student outcomes.”

The Australian Technology Network: “welcomes the focus on equity in this framework as ATN strongly believes that Australia should have a higher education system that remains affordable and accessible to all who are eligible, regardless of their background or circumstance. ATN looks forward to working with the government on delivering job-ready graduates.”

The Regional Universities Network, “recognises relevant measures for university performance have been chosen” but warns that performance funding will not be enough “to address the significant attainment gap” between regions and cities.

 However, Universities Australia counselled caution: “Universities will carefully consider these proposals and provide feedback as the government finalises its performance-based funding framework,” CEO Catriona Jackson said.

“Universities and the government understand the complex nature of any performance based scheme and the importance of getting the details right.  We are confident that neither … would want to see institutions that educate some of the nation’s most disadvantaged students lose out financially.
“We note today’s assurance from Education Minister Dan Tehan that the model would be able to be adjusted over time for unforeseen consequences. Under the proposals, up to 7.5 per cent of funding for student places would eventually go into a funding pool and each university would have to meet metrics on four measures to receive their share of funds. We need to ensure that the proposed system can adequately meet student demand, plan for future workforce needs, and serve diverse local communities.”

It was left to the Opposition and union to question the plan.

Tanya Plibersek signalled Labor is back in the policy game. “We want our unis to perform well and in principle we are not against linking some funding to performance. But it does nothing to change the fact that the Liberals have restricted access to university, locking out thousands of Australians, especially in the suburbs and regions.”

The National Tertiary Education Union argues the performance targets will have,foreseeable, albeit presumably unintended, perverse consequences.” Graduate employment is “beyond the control of universities” and measures including student satisfaction, “will see university staff come under greater pressure to improve pass rates and consequently reduce quality and threaten the reputation of the Australian university sector.”


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