Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said Australian universities shared an ambition with our VET colleagues to see the vocational education sector repaired.
But it would be “a grave mistake” to think the way to achieve that goal is to dismantle the policy settings that give Australia a world class university system.
“To face the challenges of a rapidly changing economy, Australia needs both a high-quality VET system and world class universities,” Ms Jackson said.
“There is no doubt that VET faces serious problems after years of systematic de-funding with budget cuts. The answer is to fix VET – not to subject universities to similar experiments.”
“Our high-quality universities are also the backbone of Australia’s education export sector, which contributes $30 billion a year to support Australian jobs and living standards.”
“Any policy change that undermines the strength and quality of our university system would be an economic own goal that would undermine our attractiveness to international students.”
UA is pleased to see the KPMG report endorse our longstanding policy to restore Australia’s uncapped system of university places – the ‘demand-driven system’ – and the statistics they include on the vast economic contribution of universities.
Yet the KPMG proposals would open the door to greater privatisation of post-school education in Australia, by handing private for-profit providers wider access to taxpayer-funded loans.
“The last time that was attempted, it created a $1.2 billion disaster for the VETFEE-HELP loans scheme, with dodgy providers swooping in to help themselves to public money.”
“Why on earth would Australia expose its world-class university loans scheme to that sort of risk?”
The report says there is “a perception that the university sector suffers from sameness” – when in fact there is strong diversity across our nation’s university system.
The report asserts Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funds are spent on research – yet several reports to Government since 2011 confirm 90 per cent of CGS funding is spent on teaching.
The remaining portion was always intended to fund a range of other duties that universities are required to fulfil, including contributing to building maintenance and community obligations and maintaining a base capability for research.