Tuesday 3 December
Labor sides with Greens over efficiency dividend
The future of the efficiency dividend to be applied to university funding may be in doubt following Education Minister Christopher Pyne's declaration that the government would step away from the state funding models agreed under the Gonski school education reforms. While the latest comment from the Prime Minister signals a more conciliatory approach, retaining the same levels of school funding for the next four years while ditching the governance and reporting requirements, Labor has joined with the Greens in announcing that it will block the progress through the Senate of the controversial efficiency dividend (initiated by former Labor minister Craig Emerson and intended to pay in part for the Gonski reforms). This position has just been announced – no media coverage as yet, but see https://twitter.com/SenKimCar.
- http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/gonski-backflip-12b-more-for-schools-20131202-2ym3u.html [no paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/government_defends_billion_education_w5fgJNgrKSbGqvKsulbSCJ [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/labor-has-easy-out-on-gonski-cuts-greens/story-e6frgcjx-1226769867892 [paywall]
Call for reduction of reporting for Universities
In its submission to the Commission of Audit, Universities Australia has called on the government to reduce the burden on universities of reporting to multiple government agencies, highlighting annual financial reporting, mission-based compacts and the MyUniversity website as key areas of reporting duplication. It has also suggested that reporting to the Tuition Protection Service for international students be scrapped, along with the requirement for universities to report to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. The Australian Technology Network has supported the call for the abolition of mission-based compacts, labelling them "low-value, high-burden". In a move similar to that under consideration by the Commission of Audit, the UK government has confirmed that it will sell off almost 1 billion pounds of student debt to a private debt collection agency, ahead of plans to sell off the entire outstanding student loans debt book, which has a face value of about 40 billion pounds.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/simplify-reporting-to-save-money-ua/story-e6frgcjx-1226770734995 [paywall]
- http://universitiesaustralia.edu.au/page/media-centre/2013-media-releases/universities-australia-submission-to-the-commission-of-audit--cut-regulation-to-boost-efficiency/ [no paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/uk-confirms-student-loans-to-be-sold-to-debt-collectors/story-e6frgcjx-1226769794199 [paywall]
Debate about the overall funding for the university system continues to rage, with University of Canberra VC Stephen Parker suggesting that the demand-driven system has "undesirable consequences" and that a return to government-determined places and disciplines could be a better use of public money. Parker notes that universities are currently forced to have a wide mix of disciplines due to the need for volume, and that demand-driven funding could only work if the price cap was lifted or removed, which he states would be an "unacceptable" outcome for students. He also notes that there is no guarantee that "the sum of private preferences will produce the public good outcomes", and that government intervention would be required anyway to regulate professional needs. In The Australian, social inclusion researchers Richard Reed and Annette Cairnduff highlight that traction in equity outcomes takes time, and that these outcomes are being undermined by uncertainty in relation to equity partnerships funding from the government.
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/demand_funding_damned_with_fainter_Y79oE8d7EGKCsFdyWLxaRN [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/traction-in-equity-takes-time/story-e6frgcko-1226771565639 [paywall]
Visa processing for private providers
In international education news, the head of the International Education Association of Australia, Phil Honeywood, has predicted that the effect of the expansion of streamlined visa processing to selected private institutions will be limited, as a number of "well-respected" private providers have not made the government's list of favoured providers. Private providers have protested the criteria used to make the assessment for streamlined visa processing, with the Australian reporting that a number of reputable providers were rejected on the basis of substantial enrolments from "high-risk" countries such as India, Pakistan and Nepal. However, private education giant Navitas has registered a 13% increase in enrolments, with commencing student numbers in its Australian pathway colleges up by 30% on the same time last year – largely driven by increased enrolments from China, Vietnam, India and Nepal.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/svp-impact-could-be-muted/story-e6frgcjx-1226766313433 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/promise-delivered-now-for-fun/story-e6frgcko-1226768911922 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/strong-growth-in-new-student-numbers-at-navitas-colleges/story-e6frgcjx-1226773800247 [paywall]
Indian medical students studying abroad
Meanwhile, universities in China, Russia and Nepal are capitalising on India's need for trained medical professionals, with reports from India indicating that around 14,000 students have headed abroad this year to complete their medical training, often at a much lower cost than courses back home. Restrictions on the number of medical students that India’s almost 290 medical schools can accept have been blamed for the drain.