Profound reform possible from demand-driven system review

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Transformational sector-wide change would occur if all of the recommendations announced today in the Review of the Demand Driven Funding System Report were adopted said University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Warren Bebbington.

"If these recommendations are implemented, the change would be profound," says Professor Bebbington. "Students would have far more choice and much better information to help them choose.

"Without question, Australian higher education would greatly strengthen its embrace of flexibility, innovation, efficiency and teaching quality," he said.

The report, conducted by Dr David Kemp and Mr Andrew Norton, recommends abandoning the targets for 40 per cent bachelor degree or higher attainment for 25-34 year olds by 2025 and for a 20 per cent low socio-economic status student enrolment share by 2020. It states: "The monitoring of attainment can assist with policy, but setting an arbitrary overall target to be achieved by a specific date does not."

Professor Bebbington supports this recommendation: "Dropping the arbitrary participation targets of the demand-driven system makes great sense. The highly responsive market created as a result of the reforms would achieve the participation levels we all want but without unnecessary government regulation.

"I am also pleased they have recognised the high dropout rates of students with ATARs below 50. The report suggests universities should grant admission to under-prepared students only to the extent that they can support them appropriately throughout their studies," he said.

"There is absolutely no benefit in setting up poorly-prepared students to fail academically."

The 136 page report includes makes 19 findings and provides 17 recommendations that will now be considered by the Federal Government in the lead up to the May budget.

"There are very serious financial challenges ahead if this is to be paid for in its entirety," said Professor Bebbington.

"Kemp and Norton suggest the government would pay universities less per student and thus students would have to pay more. The government would also need to collect the growing HECS/HELP debt more effectively.

"The report outlines important findings that we should all take time to absorb and analyse," said Professor Bebbington. "I am pleased Kemp and Norton have recognised the key to success at university is academic preparation before students enter, and that pathway programs therefore need much more attention."


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