Your editorial of 4 August (“Raise the bar on campus”) asserts a correlation between higher university dropout rates and the introduction of demand driven enrolments in 2012.
While attrition rates do meander, they have not moved in recent years by an amount sufficient to conclude a cause and effect relationship with the demand driven system. In 2005, for example, well before university enrolments were uncapped by the previous government, the attrition rate was 15.04 per cent, higher that the 2013 rate (the latest year available) of 14.8 per cent.
The fact that some students drop out early from university and move on to other career options suggests that the demand-driven system is working and high quality academic standards are not eroding.
For a variety of reasons, students will change their minds about their study choices. Surely it is better that they recognise early in the piece when a course is not for them rather than persevering with a costly program preparing them for an unfulfilling career.
We have already entered the so called ‘age of machines’ where in 15-20 years 40 per cent of today’s jobs will have disappeared and new jobs that we can’t yet imagine, will emerge. The rate at which the digital revolution is disrupting every sector of the economy means our ability to predict future labour market needs with any degree of accuracy is diminishing by the day.
What our tertiary education system needs is greater flexibility, and sufficient information to enable students make informed choices, not a retreat to outdated, centralised labour market planning models based on a flawed assumption that governments can accurately predict the unknowable.