Australia’s universities are internationally recognised for their quality. Australian universities are highly placed on many global rankings and are a destination of choice for international students. Satisfaction levels for domestic students and employers are high.
Universities Australia (UA) supports the intention to strengthen quality in higher education, but we do not think this end will be achieved by the performance measures in the Government’s discussion paper.
Australia has a well-developed and effective framework for higher education accountability and performance monitoring. The Higher Education Standards Panel develops rigorous standards, against which universities are regulated by TEQSA. The Government’s Quality Indicators in Learning and Teaching (QILT) website makes a range of information on universities’ performance available to the public, underwriting transparency and informing student choice. The strong performance framework in higher education gets strong results.
It is also important to note that performance funding systems, both domestically and around the world, are not always effective.
The discussion paper appropriately includes material on the impact of performance funding on access and equity. UA suggests that a recent report from La Trobe University on the use of performance funding in equity measures would be a useful resource.
The single most effective program to enhance performance in diversity, opportunity and success has been the demand-driven system (DDS), which ended with the Government’s funding freeze in 2017.
UA has called on the Government to restore the demand-driven system to:
- Ensure that every qualified Australian student can access the opportunity of higher education;
- Continue to expand access to higher education among groups that have been under-represented at university (including people from low SES backgrounds, Indigenous Australians and regional students);
- Secure the increasing supply of graduate skills that the labour market will need; and
- Set consistent and transparent principles for funding higher education.
UA has serious concerns about the model proposed in the Department’s discussion paper. Applying common metrics across the sector would ignore institutions’ geographic and mission diversity. Such a blunt measure would neither encourage good performance nor discourage bad.