Tuesday 5 November
HECS privatisation debate
The issue of whether the government will sell its $20 billion HECS debt portfolio remains contested, with students protesting across the country last week amid fears that privatising HECS debt would result in interest rate increases and more stringent loan conditions for students. At this stage, the government has committed to reviewing the prospect of "securitising" HECS debt as part of its wide-ranging Commission of Audit; views across the sector are mixed as to the likelihood of such a move. In the Sydney Morning Herald, analyst Malcolm Maiden suggests the difficulty of successfully selling a relatively high-risk portfolio to investors without discounting its face value even further or increasing repayment rates, while higher education expert Andrew Norton argues that securitising HECS would lead to limited gain while holding back real reforms such as lowering the repayment threshold or pursuing overseas debtors.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/students-protest-over-hecs-plans/story-e6frgcjx-1226749939253 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/weighing_up_the_numbers_on_student_QWYDRQ4AwUkFTk5x7jSQtL [paywall]
- http://www.smh.com.au/business/unknowns-make-hecs-a-risky-investment-20131101-2ws1r.html [no paywall]
- http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-11-04/norton-student-debt-should-be-tweaked-not-sold/5067936 [no paywall]
- http://theconversation.com/dont-sell-off-hecs-reforming-student-loans-could-bring-in-real-savings-19682 [no paywall]
Prime Ministers Prize Science
In science news, biostatistician Professor Terry Speed from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute has won the $200,000 Prime Ministers Prize for Science, with UNSW scientists Associate Professor Angela Moles and Associate Professor Andrea Morello picking up prizes for Life Scientist and Physical Scientist of the Year respectively. The University of Newcastle's Laureate Professor Graeme Jameson has also been named the NSW Scientist of the Year, accepting the NSW Science and Engineering Award at Government House in Sydney last Friday.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/jack-of-all-trades-scientist-terry-speed-wins-300k-as-a-reward-for-curiosity/story-e6frgcjx-1226750004153 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/the-empty-chair-at-the-cabinet-table/story-e6frgcko-1226749915136 [paywall]
- http://www.theherald.com.au/story/1881231/newcastle-professor-named-nsw-scientist-of-the-year/ [no paywall]
Visas and sub-degree programs
The federal government has confirmed that it has no plans to extend streamlined visa processing to sub-degree programs such as diploma and certificate courses, provoking a sharp response from private providers who have been excluded from the provisions. Following the extension of the new visa rules to 22 selected non-university providers of bachelor-level programs, private providers had lobbied hard for vocational education to be covered under the streamlined processing requirements, and have suggested that greater transparency is urgently required about the criteria for selecting successful providers. Demographer Bob Birrell has highlighted the financial risk posed to universities by the entry of the 22 lower-cost non-university providers into the market, as well as suggesting that the new rules will simply provide an alternate pathway for residency through transfers to vocational education post-visa approval.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/no-streamlined-visas-for-sub-degrees-govt/story-e6frgcjx-1226750540841 [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/private_education_council_upset_h5GCBsVvBqty9BxiHbeWDK [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/prices-cuts-key-to-boosting-intl-student-mkt/story-e6frgcjx-1226751414933 [paywall]
Universities and philanthropic donations
In the Australian Financial Review, journalist Joanna Mather suggests that universities and governments should be wary of increased philanthropic donations, highlighting the tendency for concentration of resources in a smaller number of institutions and the risks inherent in a small pool of private individuals having so much influence on education. Still on revenue, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has sharply reduced its estimate of the past export value of Australian education following a survey of international student spending patterns, cutting more than $2 billion off the annual export figures for 2009-2010.
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/private_funding_for_universities_vM1jLg347XFTeT8Q17dLFN [paywall]
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/education/foreign_students_not_as_valuable_GPZMzjp0yGLTUCMwtmwbCM [paywall]
MOOCS continues to grow in Australia
MOOCs continue to grow in popularity and number, with the University of Melbourne celebrating 300,000 enrolments into the seven MOOCs it offers through online provider Coursera and stating that the "experiment" had led it to commercial decisions about the future of online education. Coursera has just announced a partnership with the US government's "MOOC Camp" initiative to create "learning hubs" around the world where students can go to get internet access to free courses supplemented by weekly in-person class discussions with local teachers or facilitators. Coursera founder Daphne Koller has suggested that the retention rates from these âblendedâ MOOCs, based on pilots run in Bolivia, Korea and Indonesia, are up to 40% - much higher than the 10% for online-only MOOCs.