Post-secondary education policy reviews . . .

In the UK:

A series of nine studies were published yesterday as part of review of higher education policy by John Denham, the Skills Secretary. It was claimed universities should be more “flexible” to accommodate a rise in the number of students with different needs.

One study – by Christine King, vice-chancellor of Staffordshire University – suggested scrapping the traditional academic year, saying it was unhelpful to part-time students.

“Certainly traditional university systems, timetables and calendars are constructed with little reference to the world of employment,” Professor King said. “Timetables, for example, are still constrained by the concept of semesters or terms and long summer breaks, which are irrelevant to part-time students in employment.”

A report by Paul Ramsden, former vice-chancellor of Sydney University, suggested some students were better suited to apprenticeships than degrees.

It also said a rise in the number of students meant their “expectations of higher education are often inchoate”.

“Many are poorly prepared,” he said. “Many of them have little knowledge of what practically happens in higher education before they enter it. The understanding they acquire about what to expect often comes from out-of-date sources.”

In Australia:

Australia needs a new education revolution, a new approach encompassing the whole of the education system because universities alone cannot solve the nation’s educational problems, according to federal Education Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Speaking at the University of Melbourne, Gillard said Australia had to start again with a system-wide approach that would invest in the early years when social inequality was already entrenching itself.”

We know, for instance, that by age three, the average child of a professional couple has a vocabulary of 1,100 words and an IQ of 117, while the average child of parents receiving welfare has a vocabulary of 525 words and an IQ of 79,” she said. “So the more we invest early, the greater the educational improvements we can make.”

But Gillard said significant reform was needed in the nation’s universities and what she called the “one over-arching problem” facing universities was the stagnating levels of public funding. While public investment in tertiary education increased by 49.4% across the OECD in the decade to 2005, in Australia it increased by zero percent.