University lobbies working with what they’ve got now

Most found something to be positive about in the new best of all possible worlds

The Regional Universities Network was pleased, very pleased, with just about everything in Mr Tehan’s address that related to its members. “Addressing educational equity across the nation is in Australia’s interest as a whole. We are delighted by the particular focus in the package to assist more students from RRR Australia to attend and succeed at university,” chair Helen Bartlett (VC, Federation U) said.

The Australian Technology Network welcomed more places and indexing funding for them.  According to chair Attila Brungs (VC, UTS), “our recovery from economic downturn will mean more workers seeking skills, retraining or up-skilling opportunities.”

Universities Australia liked what it liked in the package – more places, improving Indigenous participation and industry research linkages. Overall; “we will need to examine it closely in coming days in order to understand the impact on our students including those in the humanities.”

The Group of Eight sees an opportunity

It acknowledged HE, in common with other “sectors” needs a “fresh approach” to address recession. It welcomed more UGs but politely pointed out students providing more of the sector’s funding was not terrific. And while the Eight “disagree strongly” with students in law, economic, business and “particularly the humanities” paying for 90 per cent of their degrees, “we recognise that out of COVID has come the need to embrace a level of pragmatism for the long-term national good. This is one such moment in time.”

Perhaps this is because the Go8 see another area of the national good where the government and universities can work together.

“The Go8 begins its discussions with the minister on securing the nation’s research future next week, and we are confident this will be a much more measured and understanding series of discussions than those of previous years,” chief executive Vicki Thomson says.

The IRU drills into the data

The Innovative Research Universities group supported more places, It also welcomes growth for regions and equity programme.

But as is its wont, it got straight into analysing outcomes, supported by an analysis of costs per course for government and students, based on 2018 data.

The big risk of these reforms is that the conflict between student incentives and university incentives could lead to a mismatch. The combined revenue from government and student for some courses the government wants to expand, such as engineering and maths, will fall. The revenue for others targeted for big increases in student charges will rise – making these more attractive to universities. It is a rare person who switches from accounting to social work for the money.”

““The problem is the unintended consequences from the needed revamp of the funding and charging rates for different courses. There is a risk that it will become uneconomical for universities to provide some reduced-price courses that are currently run on small margins and we may have more students applying for courses that are being cut back,” IRU’s Conor King says.


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