’Free market overhaul’ proposed for Australian PSE

The Australian government has released the much anticipated final report of the expert panel Review of Australian Higher Education (Bradley Review). Most contentious amongst the report’s recommendations is the proposal for a voucher-style demand-driven higher education funding system:

[The report] calls for a shift away from the centralised allocation of publicly funded places, to a “demand-driven” system in which every student would get a voucher-style entitlement to go to the institution of their choice.

The model would enable the funding to follow the student — as it does in schools — and provide institutions with more flexibility to decide the courses they offer and the number of students they admit. But critics say deregulation could result in some universities and courses losing out to more popular ones.

The report also proposes:

  • Setting new national targets for 2020, including 40% of 25 to 34-year-olds obtaining a bachelor degree or higher, and 20% of enrolments being disadvantaged students.
  • Bonus payments to institutions that meet agreed targets, such as lifting the participation and completion rates for poor, indigenous, and regional and remote students.
  • Requiring institutions to use some of their funds from international full fees to help foreign students with living expenses.
  • A more rigorous, consistent system for accrediting higher education providers.
  • That the Government encourage greater philanthropic support for higher education by matching donations with public funds.
  • More money for regional universities and consideration for setting up a new national university for regional areas. More funding for teaching and research, and improved rates of indexation.

Excerpted from Farrah Tomazin and Dan Harrison, “Universities may face free market overhaul“, The Age, December 17, 2008.