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Higher Education Reform
In Australia

(Brief Summary)


Introdcution

There have been sustained and far-reaching changes to higher education since the last major reforms to higher education in Australia in 1990. These changes include the abolition of the ‘binary divide’ between universities and colleges of advanced education, and the transformation of the sector from an elite to a mass higher education system. In the next two decades, globalization, massification of higher education, a revolution in communications technology and the need for lifelong learning will have a profound impact on the nature of teaching, learning and research.

The following is a summary of policy documents and reports that have been produced in the last decade to address the challenges faced by the Australian government in relation to higher education.

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Major Documents

Date Milestone Details
April 1998 Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy
(The West Review)
In Jan 1997, a review of Australia’s higher education system was conducted by a committee chaired by Roderick West, the principal of Trinity Grammar School in Sydney, to develop a policy and financing framework to enable the sector to meet Australia’s social and economic needs in the next two decades. The Final Report of the review was published on 17 April 1998.
April 2002 Discussion Paper – Higher Education at the Crossroads This overview paper, produced by the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, set out some of the characteristics of the higher education sector, and the challenges it faces. It raised a number of questions to stimulate debate and called for submission of views.
13 May 2003 Policy Paper – Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future Announced as part of the 2003/2004 Budget process, this paper serves as the Government’s blueprint for reform. It proposes increased Commonwealth investment of $1.5 billion over four years linked to progressively introduced reforms in areas as diverse as teaching, workplace productivity, governance, student financing, research, cross-sectoral collaboration and quality.
19 Dec 2003 Higher Education Support Act 2003 Enactment of the Higher Education Support Act 2003
2004 Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education was a national institute launched by the Minister for Education, Science and Training in August 2004, named after Sir John Carrick, a former Commonwealth Minister for Education.
2006 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund A Learning and Teaching Performance Fund was established in 2006 as a means of promoting excellence in learning and teaching in higher education institutions. Funds will be allocated on a performance basis to reward institutions which best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching of undergraduates.

Policy Paper – Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future (2003)

BACKGROUND
An extensive review process launched in March 2002 provided evidence that there are significant external and internal pressures impacting upon higher education institutions that will only become greater in the coming years.

The consultation process identified a number of significant problems, some of which are the need to access increased resources, significant duplication in some university activities and course offerings, inequitable access to higher education, high drop-out rate (30%), over-enrolment in some universities adversely affecting quality, poor governance in some higher education institutions, and excessive and restrictive regulatory and reporting demands limiting the international competitiveness of higher education institutions.

MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS
An integrated policy framework was proposed based on four principles: Sustainability, Quality, Equity and Diversity.

The major recommendations include increasing the government’s contribution per student place, strengthening university governance, providing 5 year equivalent full-time higher education to all eligible Australians, offering financial assistance to students to ensure equity of access to higher education, additional funding for areas of national needs, minimize reporting requirements, promotion of excellence in learning and teaching, and strengthening research capacity.

The following is a summary of recommendations related to teaching and learning.

Promoting excellence in learning and teaching (Appendix 1)

  • A National Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education will be established to provide a national focus for the enhancement of learning and teaching in Australian higher education institutions. (The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education was set up in 2004.)
  • The Australian Awards for University Teaching will be enhanced to raise the status of teaching and support the centrality of teaching in institutional missions.
  • A Learning and Teaching Performance Fund will be established to reward those institutions that best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching.
  • Seed funding of $35.5 million will be provided for four international centres of excellence which will become hubs for exchange and development in Australian higher education, drawing on international linkages and expertise.

Fostering flexible and responsive workplaces

  • A new Workplace Productivity Programme will be established to encourage institutions to pursue a broader workplace reform agenda.
  • An amendment will be made to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 to end protected industrial action which allowed higher education employees to withhold students’ examination results.
  • An Association of Governing Bodies of Australian Universities will be established to improve the capabilities of university leadership by coordinating and promoting professional development opportunities for members of university governing bodies.

Quality Assurance

  • The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) will be commissioned to conduct audits of overseas higher education provision by Australian providers on a whole-country basis.
  • Enhancements will be made to the existing Graduate Destination Survey and Course Experience Questionnaire to support the research and publication of data that inform institutional and sectoral performance.
  • Funding will be provided to promote the existing Graduate Skills Assessment instrument which tests generic skills of graduates in the domains of logical thinking, critical reasoning, written communication and interpersonal understanding.

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References

Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. (1998). Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy. Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.dest.gov.au/archive/highered/hereview/herr.pdf

Department of Education, Science and Training. (2002). Higher Education at the Crossroads.
Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.backingaustraliasfuture.gov.au/publications/ crossroads/pdf/crossroads.pdf

Department of Education, Science and Training. (2002).Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future.
Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.backingaustraliasfuture.gov.au/policy_paper/ policy_paper.pdf

Higher Education Support Act 2003. Act No. 149. (2003). Retrieved June 16, 2006, from
http://www.comlaw.gov.au/comlaw/legislation/actcompilation1.nsf/0/796DDEB260828439CA25710A000C15E0/$file/HigherEducationSupport2003WD02.pdf

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Australia

Higher Education Reform In Australia

(Detailed Summary)

Introduction
Time Line
The West Review – Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy
Policy Paper – Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future
Higher Education Support Act 2003


Introduction

There have been sustained and far-reaching changes to higher education since the last major reforms to higher education in Australia in 1990. These changes have included the abolition of the ‘binary divide’ between universities and colleges of advanced education and the transformation of the sector from an elite to a mass higher education system. Over the next two decades, globalization, massification of higher education, a revolution in communications and the need for lifelong learning will have a profound impact on the nature of teaching, learning and research.

In January 1997, Senator Vanstone appointed a Committee chaired by Roderick West, the principal of Trinity Grammar School in Sydney, to review Australia’s higher education system in order to develop a policy and financing framework to enable the sector to meet the nation’s social and economic needs in the next two decades.

In 2002, the Australian Government conducted a full review of Australia’s higher education system. The Review began with the release of an overview paper entitled Higher Education at the Crossroads in April 2002, which sets out some of the characteristics of the higher education sector, and the challenges it faces. The overview paper raised a number of questions intended to inform and stimulate debate and called for comment and submissions on the issues raised.

Coinciding with the release of the overview paper the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Dr Brendan Nelson, established a Reference Group comprising representatives from across the higher education sector and from business and community groups.

Between June and September a series of issues papers were produced to explore a variety of key issues in more depth. These represented issues that were raised not only in the overview paper but also through the initial submission process. These papers were:

  1. Striving for quality: Learning, teaching and scholarship
  2. Setting firm foundations: Financing Australian higher education
  3. Varieties of excellence: Diversity, specialisation and regional engagement
  4. Achieving equitable and appropriate outcomes: Indigenous Australians in higher education
  5. Meeting the challenges: The governance and management of universities
  6. Varieties of learning: The interface between higher education and vocational education and training

Following the closure of the submission process on 13 September, a series of 48 forums were held in all of Australia’s major cities with around 800 stakeholders participating. The public consultation process concluded in October with a two day ministerial forum held at Parliament House in Canberra.

The Australian Government’s response to the Review was announced on 13 May 2003 as part of the 2003/2004 Budget process. The Reform package lays the foundation for a ten year vision for Australian higher education, with approximately $1.5 billion additional Commonwealth funding being invested in the sector over four years.

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Time Line

Date Milestone Details
April 1998 Overview Paper – Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy (known as the West Review) In January 1997, a review of Australia’s higher education system was conducted by a committee chaired by Roderick West, the principal of Trinity Grammar School in Sydney, to develop a policy and financing framework to enable the sector to meet Australia’s social and economic needs in the next two decades. The Final Report of the review was published on 17 April 1998.
April 2002 Discussion Paper – Higher Education at the Crossroads This overview paper, produced by the Australian Government Department of Education, Science and Training, sets out some of the characteristics of the higher education sector, and the challenges it faces. It raised a number of questions to stimulate debate and called for submission of views.
Jun-Sep 2002 Issues Papers 1. Striving for quality: Learning, teaching and scholarship
2. Setting firm foundations: Financing Australian higher education
3. Varieties of excellence: Diversity, specialisation and regional engagement
4. Achieving equitable and appropriate outcomes: Indigenous Australians in higher education
5. Meeting the challenges: The governance and management of universities
6. Varieties of learning: The interface between higher education and vocational education and training
Sep-Oct 2002 Public Consultation Process

A series of 48 forums were held in all of Australia’s major cities with around 800 stakeholders participating. A two day ministerial forum was held at Parliament House in Canberra.

3 May 2003 Government’s response to the Review – Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future Announced as part of the 2003/2004 Budget process, this paper serves as the Government’s blueprint for reform. It proposes increased Commonwealth investment of $1.5 billion over four years linked to progressively introduced reforms in areas as diverse as teaching, workplace productivity, governance, student financing, research, cross sectoral collaboration and quality.
19 Dec 2003 Higher Education Support Act 2003 Enactment of the Higher Education Support Act 2003
2004 Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education is a national institute launched by the Minister for Education, Science and Training in August 20004, named after Sir John Carrick, a former Commonwealth Minister for Education.
2006 Learning and Teaching Performance Fund A Learning and Teaching Performance Fund was established in 2006 as a means of promoting excellence in learning and teaching in higher education institutions. Funds will be allocated on a performance basis to reward institutions which best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching of undergraduates.

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The West Review – Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy

INTRODUCTION

Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy is the report of a major independent review undertaken by a committee chaired by Roderick West. The committee was appointed in January 1997 to examine the processes shaping the future of higher education and to develop a policy and financing framework to enable the higher education sector to meet the nation’s economic and social needs in the long term.

SUMMARY

  1. To prosper in the new environment in the twenty-first century, Australia must become a learning society. To achieve this, higher education has a vital role but change is needed. The three key changes are:
    • Student centred funding: students should have a direct relationship with universities and a real say in what universities provide.
    • Priorities in research: to increase the responsiveness of higher education research to the needs of the users of that research;
    • A world-class higher education industry: to ensure that universities are able to make the investments in IT and infrastructure that will be needed over the next two decades.
  1. To build a higher education sector for the future, a new financing and regulatory framework is needed because the current policy framework will not cope with the changing world. Major changes anticipated are that:
    • Community expectations of higher education institutions will increase;
    • Demand on higher education places will increase;
    • The digital revolution will cut even more deeply into our lives;
    • Competition will increase among higher education providers.
  1. The current policy framework is not equipped to deal with these changes. It is inflexible and inconsistent and it prevents a postsecondary perspective. The major problems are:
    • Incentives generated by the funding arrangements are perverse: universities have weak incentives to respond to the needs of students and innovation and diversity is not encouraged;
    • Rewards and penalties do not promote an effective management culture;
    • Equity outcomes are mixed;
    • Competition is limited and significant barriers to entry to the market exist;
    • Universities do not have the resources to make the investments in IT and courseware that will be necessary.
  1. Fundamental reform is needed in the funding of teaching and research and in the way that government supports higher as an industry. To ensure that Australia’s institutions will be able to develop into a world-class higher education industry in the next century, it is believed that action is needed in four key areas:
    • Urgent action is needed to strengthen universities’ ability to mobilize resources, and in particular to increase their capacity to invest in information technology.
    • Action is needed to reduce barriers to entry to the industry and increase competition. It is believed that increased competition will produce a stronger Australian higher education sector while also benefiting Australian students and the community as a whole.
    • An increasingly competitive industry structure must be accompanied by better consumer protection mechanisms than exist at present.
    • Universities must do more to ensure that their decision making structures are effective.
  2. Building a direct financial relationship between students and providers is the best way to ensure that providers have real incentives to meet students’ needs. Therefore, student choice must drive funding and there must be price competition. An incremental approach to reform, in four implementation stages, is proposed:
Stage 1: Continue to fund on negotiated targets, allow institutions to set fees, provide some support for private providers and strengthen consumer protection arrangements in the higher education system
Stage 2: Government funding moves when shares of enrolments change
Stage 3: Government funding is directly driven by student choice and private and public providers are treated equally
Stage 4: A lifelong learning entitlement to postsecondary education and training
  1. The needs of those who use higher education research must be emphasized. Support for research training should be student centred. A staged approach is again proposed to the development of student choice based funding arrangements for research training:
Stage 1: Research training places are contestable
Stage 2: Research training funding is driven directly by student choice
  1. Priority setting in research must be emphasized. More investment is needed in research infrastructure and this research infrastructure funding must be targeted better.

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Policy Paper – Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future (2003)

BACKGROUND

An extensive review process launched in March 2002 provided evidence that there are significant external and internal pressures impacting upon higher education institutions that will only become greater in the coming years.

The consultation process identified a number of significant problems, some of which are the need to access increased resources, significant duplication in some university activities and course offerings, inequitable access to higher education, high d

rop-out rate (30%), over-enrolment in some universities adversely affecting quality, poor governance in some higher education institutions, and excessive and restrictive regulatory and reporting demands limiting the international competitiveness of higher education institutions.

MAJOR RECOMMENDATIONS

An integrated policy framework was proposed based on four principles: Sustainability, Quality, Equity and Diversity.

The major recommendations include increasing the government’s contribution per student place, strengthening university governance, providing 5 year equivalent full-time higher education to all eligible Australians, offering financial assistance to students to ensure equity of access to higher education, additional funding for areas of national needs, minimize reporting requirements, promotion of excellence in learning and teaching, and strengthening research capacity.

The following is a summary of recommendations related to teaching and learning.

Promoting excellence in learning and teaching (Appendix 1)

  • A National Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education will be established to provide a national focus for the enhancement of learning and teaching in Australian higher education institutions. (The Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education was set up in 2004.)
  • The Australian Awards for University Teaching will be enhanced to raise the status of teaching and support the centrality of teaching in institutional missions.
  • A Learning and Teaching Performance Fund will be established to reward those institutions that best demonstrate excellence in learning and teaching.
  • Seed funding of $35.5 million will be provided for four international centres of excellence which will become hubs for exchange and development in Australian higher education, drawing on international linkages and expertise.

Fostering flexible and responsive workplaces

  • A new Workplace Productivity Programme will be established to encourage institutions to pursue a broader workplace reform agenda.
  • An amendment will be made to the Workplace Relations Act 1996 to end protected industrial action which allowed higher education employees to withhold students’ examination results.
  • An Association of Governing Bodies of Australian Universities will be established to improve the capabilities of university leadership by coordinating and promoting professional development opportunities for members of university governing bodies.

Quality Assurance

  • The Australian Universities Quality Agency (AUQA) will be commissioned to conduct audits of overseas higher education provision by Australian providers on a whole-country basis.
  • Enhancements will be made to the existing Graduate Destination Survey and Course Experience Questionnaire to support the research and publication of data that inform institutional and sectoral performance.
  • Funding will be provided to promote the existing Graduate Skills Assessment instrument which tests generic skills of graduates in the domains of logical thinking, critical reasoning, written communication and interpersonal understanding.

References

Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. (1998). Learning for Life: Review of Higher Education Financing and Policy. Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.dest.gov.au/archive/highered/hereview/herr.pdf

Department of Education, Science and Training. (2002). Higher Education at the Crossroads.
Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.backingaustraliasfuture.gov.au/publications/ crossroads/pdf/crossroads.pdf

Department of Education, Science and Training. (2002).Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future.
Retrieved June 16, 2006, from http://www.backingaustraliasfuture.gov.au/policy_paper/ policy_paper.pdf

Higher Education Support Act 2003. Act No. 149. (2003). Retrieved June 16, 2006, from
http://www.comlaw.gov.au/comlaw/legislation/actcompilation1.nsf/0/ 796DDEB260828439CA25710A000C15E0/$file/
HigherEducationSupport2003WD02.pdf

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Higher Education Support Act 2003

BACKGROUND

The Higher Education Support Act 2003 was assented on 19 December 2003. The Act is intended to assist in the implementation of a number of policies set out in the Policy Paper Our Universities: Backing Australia’s Future, published on 13 May 2003, which set out the Government’s position on higher education as a whole.

The Act contains provisions relating to the funding of higher education and for other purposes including administrative matters relating to the operation of the Act, and higher education in the external Territories.

OVERVIEW

The Act is divided into 6 Chapters.

Chapter 1 :provides for the Commonwealth to give financial support for higher education:
a) through grants and other payments made largely to higher education providers; and
b) through financial assistance to students (usually in the form of loans).

Chapter 2(1): defines higher education providers as universities, self-accrediting providers or non self-accrediting providers
Chapter 2(2): provides for the following grants and payments:
a) grants under the Commonwealth Grant Scheme;
b) other grants for particular purposes;
c) grants for Commonwealth scholarships.

Chapter 3(1): provides for the following assistance to students:
a) HECS-HELP assistance for student contribution amounts;
b) FEE-HELP assistance for tuition fees;
c) OS-HELP assistance for overseas study.

Chapter 3(2): provides for the Student Learning Entitlement.

Chapter 4: sets out how debts are incurred and worked out in relation to loans made under Chapter 3, and provides for their repayment.

Chapter 5: provides for several administrative matters relating to the operation of this Act.

Chapter 6: provides for approval as self-accrediting entities, and for accreditation of courses of study, in external Territories.

SUMMARY

Chapter 2 – Grants for higher education assistance

This Chapter provides for who are higher education providers, and for 3 kinds of grants to be made.

Part 2-1 sets out who are higher education providers (universities, self-accrediting providers and non self-accrediting providers), the quality and accountability requirements for higher education providers and how bodies cease to be higher education providers.

The 3 kinds of grants available under this Chapter are:

Grants under Part 2-2 (Commonwealth Grant Scheme) to certain higher education providers. Amounts of grants are based largely on the number of Commonwealth supported places that the Minister allocates to each provider. Grants are made subject to conditions; and
Other grants under Part 2-3 to higher education providers and other bodies corporate for a variety of purposes; and
Grants for Commonwealth scholarships to certain higher education providers under Part 2-4.
The amount of a grant may be reduced, or an amount paid may be required to be repaid, if the recipient breaches a quality and accountability requirement or a condition of the grant (see Part 2-5).

Chapter 3 – Assistance to students

This Chapter provides for the Student Learning Entitlement and for 3 kinds of assistance that the Commonwealth provides to students.

A sufficient Student Learning Entitlement is required for a student to access HECS-HELP assistance under this Chapter. It also enables a student to access places that are funded under Part 2-2 (Commonwealth Grant Scheme).

The 3 kinds of assistance available under this Chapter are:

  • HECS-HELP assistance—assistance to meet a student’s liability to pay student contribution amounts for units of study that are Commonwealth supported (see Part 3-2);
  • FEE-HELP assistance—assistance to meet a student’s liability to pay tuition fees for units of study that are not Commonwealth supported (see Part 3-3);
  • OS-HELP assistance—assistance to a student who, as part of his or her course of study, is to undertake study at an overseas higher education institution (see Part 3.4).

The Commonwealth pays the assistance to the relevant higher education provider either (in the case of HECS-HELP assistance and FEE-HELP assistance) to discharge the student’s liability, or (in the case of OS-HELP assistance) to pay to students on the Commonwealth’s behalf. The assistance is (in most cases) in the form of a loan from the Commonwealth to the student.

Chapter 4 – Repayment of loans

Loans that the Commonwealth makes to students under Chapter 3 are repayable under this Chapter.

Each loan is incorporated into the person’s accumulated HELP debt (see Part 4-1).

Under Part 4-2, the accumulated debts can be repaid in 2 ways:

  • A person may make voluntary repayments (which may attract a repayment bonus); or
  • Compulsory repayments (based on a person’s income) are made using the system for payment of income tax.

Chapter 5 – Administration

This Chapter deals with the following administrative matters:

  • Payments made by the Commonwealth under this Act (see Part 5-1);
  • Administrative requirements that are imposed on higher education providers (see Part 5-2);
  • Electronic communication between higher education providers and students (see Part 5-3);
  • Protection of personal information gained in the administration of Chapters 3 and 4 (see Part 5-4);
  • Tax file numbers of students (see Part 5-5);
  • Indexation of certain amounts (see Part 5-6);
  • Reconsideration and administrative review of certain decisions (see Part 5-7).

Chapter 6 – The provision of higher education in the external Territories

This Chapter primarily provides for approval as self-accrediting entities and for accreditation of courses of study in external Territories.

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