Wednesday 6 November
Higher education policy
The Australian Financial Review reports that the government may announce the dumping of Labor's controversial $2000 cap on deductions for self-education expenses as part of a wider announcement today about tax reform. The move, which angered universities and professional bodies, was a budget saving measure placed on hold by the previous government in the wake of public opposition.
In other savings news, Central Queensland University VC Scott Bowman has stated that he would support the government selling off HECS debt rather than changing the subsidy applied, repayment schedule, or income threshold for repayment, which he stated would have a greater impact on students. A new poll, reported in the Guardian Australia, shows that 59% of the 1800 individuals polled would oppose privatisation of HECS debt. Economist Bruce Chapman, the original architect of HECS, has stated that price competition is incompatible with the HECS-HELP system, citing the UK experience where partial price deregulation had seen the majority of institutions rush to charge the maximum possible fee.
- http://www.afr.com/p/national/labor_self_education_tax_changes_0ztpSjuYCVLZBWExrqJLDP [paywall]
- http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/05/opinion-poll-abbott-audit [no paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/opinion/sell-hecs-debt-keep-scheme/story-e6frgcko-1226753665592 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/hecs-kills-price-competition/story-e6frgcjx-1226753721984 [paywall]
Streamlining research funding process
As part of its plans to streamline the administrative processes for research, the National Health and Medical Research Council may move to more flexible rolling rounds for project grant applications, suggesting that the model would be more like journal peer review than the current system. However, Australian Research Council head Aidan Byrne has indicated his organisation is unlikely to follow suit due to resource constraints. There have been a number of calls to reform the grants system, with commentators suggesting that funding agencies become independent from government in order to fund innovative research, more transparent feedback be provided to unsuccessful applicants, and a lottery system be applied to allocate funding to grants deemed "fundable". A formula system for allocating grants has also been proposed. In the wake of declining success rates for grants and increasingly high costs of research, NHMRC chief Warwick Anderson has also warned that medical PhDs may need to consider broader training to prepare for careers beyond full-time research.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/rolling-rounds-to-speed-research-funds/story-e6frgcjx-1226753737004 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/independence-key-for-innovation-on-grants-qut-economist-nick-graves/story-e6frgcjx-1226753733080 [paywall]
- http://theconversation.com/the-end-of-written-grant-applications-lets-use-a-formula-19747 [no paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/medical-phds-need-to-look-beyond-research-careers/story-e6frgcjx-1226752945415 [paywall]
Funding cuts and participation
Researchers at the University of Melbourne have highlighted that funding cuts to universities have placed in jeopardy attempts to increase participation by disadvantaged groups, suggesting that major structural change is needed to ensure that the small gains in low SES participation achieved since the Bradley reforms are not lost. Recent studies from the US indicate that public universities in that country are going backward on the proportion of students from low-income backgrounds, with the UK system also registering growth in low-SES participation at much lower rates than those for richer students. Universities also don't fare well on environmental sustainability measures, with a review by Monash University showing that universities are well behind large global corporations in integrating sustainability into overall strategic goals.
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/funding-cuts-put-equity-under-pressure/story-e6frgcjx-1226752962443 [paywall]
- http://www.theaustralian.com.au/higher-education/study-rules-unis-eco-efforts-not-sustainable/story-e6frgcjx-1226753718285 [paywall]
Innovation and national prosperity
Higher education expert Gavin Moodie has highlighted the critical role of innovation to building Australia's prosperity, noting that Australia compares well to global peers in areas like human capital, research and infrastructure but that its knowledge and technology ranking was much lower. He also notes that Australia is ranked 34th globally for cluster development – well below its overall ranking – and suggests that sustained commitment from government and industry is needed to reap the long-term benefits of innovation hubs and clusters. Also in The Conversation, researchers from the University of Wollongong suggest that a âbusiness coachingâ model for fostering innovation can be a successful means of changing organisational cultures towards innovation.
- http://theconversation.com/research-is-useless-innovation-is-gold-19160 [no paywall]
- http://theconversation.com/ideas-are-cheap-its-a-coach-that-business-really-needs-19335 [no paywall]
Opening of Torrens University
Private institution Torrens University, owned by global education giant Laureate and based in Adelaide, will open its doors in 2014 to around 250 students. Key differences with the Laureate model include trimesters to fast-track degrees and compulsory work placements, with the university offering generous scholarships and 50% discounts on fees for its graduate programs to remain competitive with local institutions. Private provider Navitas is also reporting strong growth prospects despite downturns in the international market.