Friday, March 14, 2008

Australian Higher Education Review

On 13 March 2008, Julia Gillard, Minister for Education, announced a Review of Australian Higher Education. The review will be chaired Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley AC, with an interim report in October, and final report by the end of 2008.

Some suggestions for the review

A major issue for the review is how to apply the digital revolution in education which the new government has set in train for the school and vocation education sector to higher education. The vocational and higher education sectors need to be better linked (the VET sector has much to contribute). Higher education needs to address the needs of industry for skilled staff and research without loss of academic excellence. Australia's higher education sector needs to both compete and cooperate with the rest of the world.

Some of my thoughts on this:
  1. Building Arcadia, Emulating Cambridge's High Technology Success, from the book Net Traveller , (with Foreword by Senator Kate Lundy).
  2. Specifications for a flexible computer classroom
  3. How to Create On-line University Courses
The Australian Computer Society is leading a project to align professional standards for ICT globally. The ACS already provides online post gradate education in Australia and this is likely to be used as the model for international training. Last year the ACS was asked by the International Federation for Information processing (a UN affiliated body) to build free open access online digital publishing facilities for global ICT research. This is now being implemented, at the Australian National Unviersity. These initiatives could act as a model for other professional sectors.

Outline of the review

The review will look at how the education system can be:
  1. contributing to the innovation and productivity gains required for long term economic development and growth; and
  2. ensuring that there is a broad‐based tertiary education system producing professionals for both national and local labour market needs.
The review will look at how to achieve these objectives:
  1. Diverse, high performing institutions with a global focus: Developing a diverse, globally focused and competitive higher education sector with quality, responsive institutions following clear, distinctive missions to provide higher education opportunities to students throughout Australia.
  2. Productivity and participation: Enhancing the role of the higher education sector in contributing to national productivity, increased participation in the labour market and responding to the needs of industry. ...
  3. Effective and efficient investment: Improving funding arrangements for higher education institutions as they relate to teaching responsibilities, taking into account public and private benefits and contributions to inform the development of funding compacts between the Australian Government and institutions.
  4. Underpinning social inclusion through access and opportunity: Supporting and widening access to higher education, including participation by students from a wide range of backgrounds.
  5. Enhanced quality and high standards: Implementing arrangements to ensure that quality higher education is provided by public and private providers and that this is widely understood and recognised by clients of the higher education sector.
  6. A broad tertiary education and training sector: Establishing the place of higher education in the broader tertiary education sector, especially in building an integrated relationship with vocational education and training.
Available are:
  1. Minister's Speech
  2. Dest web site about the review
  3. Media Release
  4. Terms of Reference
  5. Higher Education Review Expert Panel
  6. Questions and Answers
  7. Contact Information
From the speech:

... Over the course of the last decade, the issue of human capital has risen dramatically in public policy importance globally.

Policy makers now accept that investing wisely in knowledge, skills and innovation is one of the best means available to ensure long-term prosperity, leading to both overall economic growth and to better education and work opportunities.

Around the world, governments have responded by increasing their policy focus in all areas of education, particularly higher education.

Everywhere it seems, except here.

In Australia since the mid-1990s our higher education system has been subjected to a seemingly random blend of neglect with occasional bursts of ideologically-driven interference.

... I am announcing today a major review of Australian higher education, which will help us shape the next steps in the Education Revolution for our universities.

And I am announcing a new long-term goal for our post-secondary education system: guaranteed access to higher education or skills training for every young Australian with the talent and willingness to give it a go.

The case for higher education investment

The Rudd Government's rationale for improving the performance of our higher education system is that higher education leads to higher productivity which leads to higher economic growth.

This case is now well accepted by the world's leading economists and economic bodies.

Human capital economists like the University of Chicago's James Heckman (who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2000) have been telling us for some two decades that public spending on education and skills leads to high rates of return on investment for countries.

OECD analysis of human capital suggests significant positive correlations between rising levels of educational attainment on the one hand, and both economic growth and improved physical and mental wellbeing on the other. The organisation has estimated that one year of average additional educational attainment for a population adds between 3 to 6 percent to long term GDP growth.

Our competitor nations are aware of this thinking and have been acting on it. Australia, by contrast, has not. Consider this analysis.

Between 1995 and 2004 public funding of tertiary education increased by an average of 49 percent across the OECD but declined by 4 percent in Australia.

This makes Australia the only OECD country where the total level of public funding of tertiary education decreased during that time.

While private investment in Australia went up by 98 percent, this actually compares poorly with the average OECD increase of 176 percent. Most nations managed to increase both public and private investment substantially. Rather than leverage more private investment through a partnership for growth, Australia shifted responsibility from the public sector to the private. Mostly this has meant a shift to individual students and their families who have paid more through higher tuition fees.

Between 1995 and 2004 total funding per tertiary student increased by an average of 9 percent across the OECD but increased here by only 1 percent.

Australia is now starting to fall behind our competitors in graduations in critical areas. We are now below the OECD average for the proportion of graduates in science and agriculture, and way below them in engineering, manufacturing and construction - 7.2 percent compared with 12.2 percent. In Korea the figure is 27.1 percent - four times Australia's density.

Research is also being badly affected. In the last ten years, research output has grown rapidly in countries like Singapore, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China - which is now the second biggest investor in research and development in the world. But it has only limped along here in Australia.

If you want to know why investing in research is important, ask the University of Queensland's Professor Ian Frazer who discovered the vaccine for a cancer that kills 250,000 women every year.

Over the last decade, Australian higher education has barely stood still in terms of numbers, quality and output, while our competitors have surged ahead.

The picture is clear: we are under-investing in our human capital, and in the long run this will stall our global competitiveness.

This policy failure has grave potential consequences for every single Australian.

We've been led to believe in recent years that what happens to our universities doesn't matter to ordinary Australians. This is a dangerous fallacy. ...

From: A Higher Education Revolution: Creating a Productive, Prosperous, Modern Australia , Speech at the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Conference, The Hon Julia Gillard MP, Minister for Education. Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Social Inclusion. Deputy Prime Minister, Sydney, 13 March, 2008

No comments: