Monday 13 January 2014
Ahead of the upcoming report of the review into the demand-driven system of student funding, journalist Nick Cater argues that demand-driven funding has "devalued" Australian degrees, leading to credential inflation and a diminution of Australian universities’ reputation for quality in the international market. Cater attributes this to the "benighted doctrine of inclusiveness", and suggests that dual-track degrees through TAFEs and universities could provide a better alternative for many students. Review chairs David Kemp and Andrew Norton are due to release their report in early February.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/opinion/columnists/demanddriven-model-devalues-degrees/story-fnhulhjj-1226796083845 [paywall]
A UK study has identified a correlation between universities’ retention rates and the proportion of students from "widening participation" backgrounds, noting the significant financial risks to universities of high drop-out rates. The study highlights the importance of preparedness, noting that successful institutions were applying the additional loading for low SES students to programs designed to identify early warning signs of attrition. The Conversation reports on another study from the UK that found that genetics play a more important role in student success than home life or teachers.
- http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/news/poorer-students-present-financial-risk/2010315.article [no paywall, but article limit]
- http://theconversation.com/genes-have-a-big-impact-on-exam-results-uk-research-21359 [no paywall]
In Australia, the debate continues over whether prerequisites for maths and science should be reintroduced at universities, with lecturers in physics and other mathematics-based disciplines calling on universities to address students’ lack of preparedness for fundamental university courses. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has also cited the emergence of "remedial" maths and English courses at University as a key symptom of the need for secondary education curriculum reform. However, other senior mathematics and science figures – including University of Western Sydney Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover, a mathematician by discipline – have questioned whether reintroduction of pre-requisites is appropriate, suggesting that universities need to look at more innovative ways to support students from a range of backgrounds to succeed, including those who were not as well prepared mathematically.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/uni-chief-says-no-need-to-return-to-old-days-of-maths-prerequisites/story-e6frgcjx-1226799035747 [paywall]
- http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/less-maths-makes-hsc-physics-dumb-20140103-309gh.html [no paywall, but article limit]
- http://www.smh.com.au/comment/higher-maths-a-plus-but-not-the-only-way-for-engineering-20131219-2zmst.html [no paywall, but article limit]
A new paper by the University of Melbourne comparing international higher education systems has identified that government spending as a share of GDP is a key factor for research output, while total funding (including from private sources) is what counts for participation rates. The study, which ranks the higher education systems of 48 countries on measures such as resources, the regulatory environment, connectivity, teaching and research output, and access, also stressed the role of government policy and regulation that allows universities freedom to innovate.