Wednesday 11 December
Efficiency dividend uncertainty
Uncertainty remains over the government’s planned efficiency dividend on universities following Labor’s decision to support the Greens in blocking the legislation in the federal Senate. The government has criticised the about-turn as "hypocritical", but has not yet indicated where funds would be recovered to address the resultant budget black hole. While Labor has pegged its change of heart to the government’s failure to implement the Gonski reforms (which the efficiency dividend was intended in part to fund), the Australian Technology Network has again reiterated that school funding should not come at the expense of tertiary education, and that university funding should be driven by political imperatives. In other Canberra news, top higher education public servant David de Carvalho, who headed the Higher Education branch of the Department of Education, has been appointed to the Department of Premier and Cabinet to lead the White Paper into Federalism.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/community-groundswell-forced-labors-hand/story-e6frgcjx-1226776316576 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/top-higher-education-burearcrat-moves-on/story-e6frgcjx-1226775870052 [paywall]
Launch of Colombo Plan
The launch of the government’s flagship New Colombo Plan scheme, which will offer scholarships and bursaries totalling $100 million over the next five years to enhance student mobility in Asia, has proceeded despite tensions with founding partner Indonesia over intelligence gathering in the region. In the 2014 pilot, the government will offer 40 elite undergraduate scholarships and 700 mobility grants to students to study in Singapore, Japan, Indonesia and Hong Kong, as well as opportunities to gain work experience. Former Howard government science, education and research minister, Dr Brendan Nelson, has highlighted the role of science diplomacy in international cooperation, pushing greater proportion of competitive research grants to be targeted at international collaboration.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/my-goal-is-to-see-study-in-the-indopacific-region-benefit-us-all/story-e6frgcko-1226779990349 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/scholarship-lure-for-colombo-elites/story-e6frgcjx-1226780087754#mm-premium [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/research-links-as-soft-diplomacy/story-e6frgcjx-1226780027295#mm-premium [paywall]
Regulation of higher education
The government has committed to implementing in full the recommendations of the Phillips KPA report into regulatory burdens commissioned by the previous government and released in 2012, including a single higher education research data collection, removing duplicated capital asset management reporting, and limiting universities’ obligations to report to the Tuition Protection Service. The move has been welcomed by the sector, with Universities Australia set to report back to the government in a year on the savings achieved for universities. In combination with the Lee Dow-Braithwaite review into higher education regulator TEQSA, some commentators are predicting an inevitable deregulatory drive within the sector, including deregulating student fees as the only ârealisticâ response to limited government funding and rising costs of teaching and research. In the Financial Review, higher education policy analyst Andrew Dempster has also called on the government to dump mission-based compacts, which have limited relevance in a demand-driven funding environment where no further increases are available.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/christopher-pyne-to-cut-reporting-red-tape/story-e6frgcjx-1226780062711 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/deregulating-fees-only-game-in-town/story-e6frgcjx-1226779990061 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/new_government_perfect_time_for_W98UyljHI8ssn5ivOvDThM [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/let_universities_innovate_6bkdAy30CjtvoaYX98BxyJ [paywall]
UK sells off student debt to fund demand driven system
The UK government has pushed ahead with its scheme to sell off student loan debt to fund a new demand-driven higher education system from 2015, with the extra funding to cover places and tuition subsidies in STEM disciplines. Critics, including peak body Universities UK, have expressed reservations about the sustainability of such a move in the long term, noting the likely pressure to change loan terms to be less favourable to students and the risk of predatory debt-collection practices in the private sector. The expansion of the UK higher education sector has been estimated to meet demand of up to 60,000 places a year currently unable to be accommodated in the current system, with uncapped places to be extended to private and vocational providers as well. However, a new study from the UK has highlighted that the âaccess gapâ in higher education is related far less to academic achievement than previously thought, with social background, wealth and aspiration more important drivers.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/warning-british-loan-sale-will-rebound/story-e6frgcjx-1226779938615 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/britain_lifts_student_number_cap_qBj3TnSpoUBIVfbRuB2oEL [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/the_wealth_effect_in_education_I0T2bmJxmUCSHTokgX120I [paywall]
International student enrollments
The Australian reports that international student commencements have edged up slightly on the same period last year, with solid growth in the English college sector. These results align with the outcomes of a recent report by the British Council, which suggests that Australia has been âshieldedâ from falling student demand from India due to favourable visa reforms and post-study work opportunities, which mitigate the high cost of living. StudyPortal, a major European channel for recruiting international students, is also looking to expand into the Australian university space, with a competitive business model that offers universities a lower per-student commission rate than traditional international education agents. In other international news, an Iranian PhD student accepted to the University of Queensland to study clean energy has lost a federal court challenge against the government’s decision to deny her entry to Australia under international sanctions provisions regarding weapons of mass destruction.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/overseas-student-numbers-inch-higher/story-e6frgcjx-1226779918394#mm-premium [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/indian-boom-might-not-eventuate-says-british-council/story-e6frgcjx-1226776125889 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/australian_universities_get_recruitment_MWzo2cjaIiTqPoyJiSg6QK [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/suspect-wmd-link-rules-out-visa/story-e6frgcjx-1226779899694 [paywall]
Call for review of national strategic research priorities
Research is also in the news, with the Prime Minister directing the Chief Scientist, Professor Ian Chubb, to review the national strategic research priorities to sharpen their focus and revise their tone to a âplain Englishâ approach. Professor Chubb has advised that there will be âa couple fewerâ priorities as a consequence of the review, but does not expect substantive changes. The role of assessing research impact is also under consideration, with Wollongong PVC (and former UON DVC) Professor Mike Calford highlighting the critical role of an objective national measure of research impact to support ERA in providing confidence to governments and the community about research funding. In the UK, where the first full-blown trial of research impact is underway, the head of the Higher Education Funding Council has stated that the new approach is already delivering dividends to the sector, with universities âenergisedâ by the process.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/era-needed-to-assure-funding-confidence/story-e6frgcko-1226779996841 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/seismic-shift-in-assessing-the-impact-of-research/story-e6frgcjx-1226779970827 [paywall]
Savings at Melbourne University
The University of Melbourne will seek to find $70 million in savings through centralising purchasing and reviewing its back-office services and professional support, with job cuts likely as the university shifts its workforce profile to include more academics and fewer professional staff. Many functions will be re-centralised to achieve efficiencies, effectively rolling back the 2009 restructure which devolved more responsibilities and autonomy onto the University’s faculties and research institutes. The savings have been earmarked in part for an expansion in online and digital learning. Unions have expressed fears that the job cuts will increase already skyrocketing workloads for administrative staff, as well as flagging the likely disruption that the 18-month process will create. Melbourne has also announced a joint $8 million research partnership with Microsoft focusing on the development of ânaturalâ user interfaces, such as gestures and moods, to mediate social interactions.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/job-fears-at-melb-uni-as-vc-targets-70m-savings/story-e6frgcjx-1226776305875 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/melbourne_uni_savings_earmarked_ahvHzQd9FSFieZBC2dC6mO [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/technology/microsoft-university-of-melbourne-launch-high-tech-research-centre/story-e6frgakx-1226776100532 [paywall]