Higher Education Access and Outcomes Panel Discussion

[Ben Dolman] It’s a great pleasure to welcome you all here to our offices here in Melbourne and for those watching on the livestream to join us for the launch of
the latest research report ‘The demand driven university system: a mixed report
card’ and for a panel discussion of the broader questions around higher
education access and outcomes. Before we begin, I’d like to acknowledge that
Wurundjeri people of the Kulin nation, the traditional custodians of the land
on which we meet today and pay my respects to their elders both past and
present. We will have time for questions later in the event after each of our
panelists is presented on their particular areas of research interest
and I ask that you save up for your questions until that time. So now to our
panelists the seminar today brings together four experts in education
policy and research. We have Michael Brennan, Chair of the Productivity
Commission. Education consultant Megan O’Connell. Professor Sue Trinidad from
Curtin University and Andrew Norton from the Grattan Institute. And what we want
to do with the session today is to explore different perspectives and
different aspects of the challenges faced by people growing up in
disadvantage and how universities can best work for them. So by way of
introduction our first speaker will be Michael Brennan.
Michael is Chair of the Productivity Commission. He has previously been Deputy Secretary of the Fiscal group at the federal Treasury. In that role, he advised
on budget policy, retirement incomes, Commonwealth-state relations, social
policy and infrastructure financing. Prior to that role he was Deputy
Secretary in the Victorian Department of Treasury and Finance, so he has a long
history of involvement in social policy design and funding at both Commonwealth
and state levels. Mike will be introducing our paper today,
Michael. [Michael Brennan] Thank you very much Ben. So when Ben said we had four education experts on the panel he was 75 percent right, we
certainly have three. I’d like to thank all of you for coming in today to the
Melbourne offices of the Productivity Commission and also to thank you to
those who’ve joined livestream. We wanted to bring together this group and this
panel to put out some research that we think is important in respect of one of
the most important reforms to the higher education system in the last three
decades. We start from the premise that the university education is a very
valuable thing. It enriches lives and it helps us build the skills base that we
need for future economic growth but it’s also costly. It’s costly to taxpayers and
it’s costly to students in terms of accumulated debt and forgone earnings. So can you have too much of a good thing? How much is enough? And who ought to
decide that? Because since we’ve had the demand driven system fully implemented
since 2012 we’ve left that choice to universities to determine how many
students they wish to enroll and whom, and to students themselves to work out
whether university was right for them. So what were the results? Well as always it
turns out that answering that question is a lot less straightforward than it
seems. So the first thing we know is that enrollments rose significantly under the
demand driven system up by around 36 percent between 2009 and 2017. Enrollments have grown such that we now
believe that 60% of 22 year olds have attended University and that’s part of a
long-run trend with or without the demand driven system we have seen over a 50-60 year period the movement of the higher education system away from what
was a narrow elite province – to something more akin to
a mass participation model and much of our current debate comes back to that
question of how well our institutions, our universities, our school system and
public policy in general has adapted to that broad trend. The key thing is that
until now very little has been known about the additional students. Those
students who studied as a result of the demand-driven system but who would not
have studied but for that system and the key thing is that identifying those
students is not easy because if you think about all those students have
enrolled who’ve enrolled in university since 2010 well obviously a large number,
the majority, would have enrolled under the previous system. It’s the question of who
were those additional ones who owe their university opportunity to the
demand-driven system itself. So how did we do that?
Well we did it in part by looking at the longitudinal survey of Australian youth
and looking at the characteristics of students who were most likely to study
under the previous capped system and comparing that to the students most
likely to study under the demand driven system and to the extent that a student
had a much higher propensity to study under the demand driven system to that
extent they were counted as an additional student and what we wanted to
know were three things: we wanted to know a bit about the characteristics of those
students, their attributes, where did they come from,
secondly we wanted to know how did they fare at University and the third
question that we wanted to ask was did those students fundamentally change the
composition of the cohort that studies at university, did we broaden access as
well as increasing access? So the most obvious point to make is that students
who came in under the demand driven system as additional students had lower
ATARs so 73% of these students had an ATAR are below 70 or they came in with
no ATAR at all. But some other interesting facts perhaps surprisingly
these students were disproportionately from low socio-economic, the lowest socio-economic quartile. That’s a very unusual thing in university
education and sixty-five percent of them were the first in their family to study,
that is they didn’t have a parent who attended University.
They were also less likely to come from a rural or regional area. That bears
repeating so what other whatever other attributes
and elements of diversity that this group brought they were overwhelmingly
from metropolitan areas. They’re also more likely to go to a government school,
they were less likely ultimately to end up at a group of eight university – group
of eight university certainly expanded enrollments but typically they’re
expanding enrollments by taking in students who would otherwise be
somewhere else in the system they didn’t really touch this cohort and they tended
to study courses like education IT and commerce. Now because we had a
longitudinal data set we were able to get in our time machine and go back to
these students school days and look at their literacy and numeracy scores at
age fifteen when they set the PISA test and what we found was perhaps not
unexpectedly was in addition to having lower ATARs these students also
had slightly lower literacy and numeracy at age fifteen, on average, and as you can
see from the chart on the left we are talking about on average there is an
overlapping distribution but on average it’s true that the additional students
came in with lower literacy and numeracy than the other students and that
probably meant that they had naturally a more challenging task in adapting to
university. So how did the additional university students fare? Well one
thing is they’re less likely than other students to have completed their studies
by age 23 many of them are still studying there was a higher tendency to
study part-time but a significant number dropped out the dropout rate was around
one in five compared to more like one in eight for the other students. When we look at their transition to the
labor market by age 23, of those who graduated, fewer were in full-time work
at age 23, fewer were in professional occupations and more of them were
unemployed and interestingly there was a higher unemployment rate among the
additional students at age 23 then there is for students who never went to
university or even for those who dropped out of university whether there were
additional students or other students. So it does appear that the transition to
the labor market for this cohort of additional students was less smooth than
it was for other students at university. But now for the good news, I know you
wanted some! By age 25 those outcomes were starting to converge such that most
of the graduates had achieved were in full-time work and the gap in terms of
those in a professional occupation had converged and the unemployment rate was
considerably lower. So a less smooth transition but a broadly similar end
point for these additional students and that’s part one of our mixed report card
as we’ve called it, so a higher dropout rate among the additional students, a
less smooth transition to the labor market by age 23 but by age 25 we see a
situation where of that cohort of additional students two-thirds of them
have graduated, the majority are in full-time work, many in professional jobs,
earning a reasonable graduate salary. Now did they do better than they would have
done had they not gone to university? That is a very difficult question to
answer for two reasons: the first is that the earnings premium which a university
graduate can expect emerges gradually over time and it continues to expand
over a workers 20s, 30s, 40s and we just haven’t had the time to see the full
life path and expected earnings here but it would also require us to match these
people up against those who studied in the VET system who had similar
qualifications. We’re talking here about a cohort who
might have been expected to do quite well in the VET system so this is an
area potentially for future work. Now to our next question:
Did the demand-driven system fundamentally change who went to
university? The first point to remember here is that university attendance is
overwhelmingly weighted in favor of relatively higher socio-economic,
metropolitan, non-Indigenous and students (and those) who have a parent who went to
university. So we looked at four equity groups here, low socio-economic students,
that’s the bottom quartile, regional and remote students, Indigenous and first in
family. And this chart shows the participation gap for each of those
equity groups, it basically compares the university participation rate for each
of them with the university with the participation rate for those not in the
relevant equity group. Now what we then tried to do is to put a bit of rigor
around what it is that drives this participation gap, but broadly you can
see is coming down to two things the first thing is that the students in the
relevant equity groups have lower ATARs and when you go back to age 15 have
lower literacy and numeracy than those who are not in the equity groups so
that’s an inequity in educational attainment that opens up during the
school years and that remains a significant policy challenge. But I guess
what’s more stark is even when you allow for that gap in educational attainment
students in the lot in the equity groups are systematically less likely to attend
university than their counterparts who aren’t in those equity groups. So to
illustrate that this chart groups students according to educational
attainment as measured by literacy and numeracy at age 15 in the PISA test. So
what you can see is here if you rate relatively high in the top quartile for
literacy and numeracy at age 15 you have a pretty high university participation
rate and that is true whether or not you’re in an equity group or a non-equity group. There is a participation gap but overall
participation rates are high and that’s true in 2010 before the demand-driven
system and it’s true in 2016 in the midst of the demand driven system. But
now look at the bottom half of the distribution, the lowest two quartiles. So
these are people with relatively low literacy and numeracy but for those who
aren’t members of an equity group they still participate in higher education in
relatively high numbers whereas participation for the low SES groups
that the various equity groups, so the low SES, Indigenous, first in family or
regional and remote, fall away and if anything between 2010 and 2016 that
participation gap has actually expanded. It closed a bit in the middle to high
group. And of course I can’t let the occasion pass without noting that PISA
scores for literacy in numeracy since 2003 have been on the decline and
they’ve been on the decline across the board. It’s true for the equity groups
and for the non-equity groups, it’s true across government, independent and
Catholic school sectors. So it remains a significant challenge both overall but
also in terms of correcting for some of those inequities. So here what we’ve
tried to do is to isolate how much of that participation gap can be attributed
to lower literacy and numeracy and how much of it is effectively due to all the
other factors that might come in to an individual’s decision whether or not to
attend university. So what this really illustrates is say for regional
and remote students the gap in literacy and numeracy explains 18 percent, very
little of the gap in participation. The rest the other 82% is all those other
factors: the cultural, environmental economic factors including cost that
might mean somebody in a rural and regional area does not attend University. So in other words a student in a regional or from a remote area,
if you compare them to a student in a metropolitan area with
the same level of educational attainment, they have a systematically lower
likelihood of attending University and you can make a similar observation in
respect of Indigenous students. So overall the equity story is like the
outcomes story, a bit mixed. Students from low socio-economic backgrounds increase
their participation rate in the demand driven system, as did students who were
the first in their family to study but for Indigenous and for regional and
remote students there was no improvement in their overall participation rate as a
proportion of the larger group, arguably there was a deterioration. Now maybe
that’s to be expected because the sorts of barriers that such people face to
studying and not the sorts of things that are easily removed or ameliorated
by simply opening up greater access to the university system, they’re more
complex and they’re more structural. So what does this all mean?
Well firstly, we deliberately haven’t made specific policy recommendations but
we we do think there are four broad themes that it’s worth thinking about in
terms of general policy implications. The first is that the falling level of
proficiency in literacy and numeracy in Australian schools remains an ongoing
policy challenge both the absolute decline but also the inequities that
emerge between higher and lower socio-economic students, for example the
equity and the non equity groups. The second broad conclusion is that
universities arguably have incentives and business models which are more
focused on enrolling additional students less focused necessarily on ensuring
that there’s the support and the help to ensure that students, particularly those
coming from a more disadvantaged background, have the wherewithal to
succeed at university. Thirdly that Indigenous and regional and remote
students face more significant structural barriers to participation in
university and ones that aren’t easily addressed simply by opening up access to
the system. And finally that a demand driven system works best when
the viable alternatives are strong. So when the labor market for school leavers is
robust and when the VET system is working well then the demand-driven
higher education system effectively can work more effectively but in the absence
of those two things there is the risk that more students are going into the
higher education system than perhaps would be desirable ideally. With those
things in place with all of those policy things solved, big big issue, that a
demand driven system would probably work pretty well. I’ll just finish on two
things before I hand over to the remainder of the panel. The first is just
to note that this work that we’ve done is consistent with what we try to do
with the Commission with our research program in general. We try and find areas
where we can make a strong quantitative analytic contribution to a policy area
which has significant policy implications. I do just want to thank,
note embarrass, the team who put this work together which was really led by
Ben, our compere today, who provided the intellectual drive and leadership behind
this work but also the team of Marco, Ishita and Max who did all the
quantitative analytic and research work towards this. The final thing is to
understand what our work is not. As I’ve already said it’s not a menu of specific
immediate concrete actionable policy items, it’s more general than that, and
nor is it a full-blown evaluation of the demand driven system, for that we would
need to effectively tally up the costs and the benefits of the system. What
we’ve endeavoured to do is to simply provide a bit of evidence that we’ve put
out to prompt a bit of further debate. There are a lot of issues that remain
unaddressed and a lot of questions that remain unanswered. That’s why we have the panel so on that note I’ll hand over. [Ben Dolman] His presentation had a lot there that I’m sure we’ll come back to in the questions at
the end of the session and indeed thank you for the kind words. Michael spoke a
bit about the importance of literacy and numeracy in determining
access to University and also the outcomes that students achieve and with
that in mind our next speaker is Megan O’Connell we’ll be talking about how
these inequities open up during childhood and what can be done about
them. Megan is a public policy expert with experience across early childhood,
school and tertiary education sectors. She has a long history in developing
research driven policy and effective programs targeting young people who are
likely otherwise to make poor transitions from school to further
education and employment. Megan was previously director of the Mitchell
Institute and she is now honorary senior fellow at the Melbourne Graduate School
of Education. Thank You Megan. [Megan O’Connell] Excellent, look thank you for the opportunity to
talk today, I’d like to as the title of my presentation says start at the very
beginning so talk you through the journey of some of these children and
young people who may not make their way successfully through higher education. So
my presentation for all they will look at a child’s journey from early years
through to University and look at things like early and early disadvantage
aspirations and pathways and some things that I think might help along the way. So one thing we know about children is not all children have the same early
chances as everybody else. We know about 60,000 children, about one in five
children start school behind their peers. Every year we have a census in Australia
called the Australian Early Development Census and that’s conducted every three
years, every child in Prep, every three years a teacher marks off this
instrument and from that we get a national measure of how many children
are on track so how many children are likely to go quite comfortably through
school without any extra intervention needed and how many are behind. And this
census looks across five areas of vulnerability that we know make the
biggest difference on a child’s life course so it looks at physical health
and well-being, can kids hold a pen? Can they sit up straight for long
enough? Social competence, so can a child manage their emotions as best to expect
from or for a five-year-old? Emotional maturity, you know, are they able to also
engage with the people next to them. Language is a big one,
do children actually come to school with enough words to be able to understand
the teacher and to communicate what they want? Not quite big enough and what we
find is that you can look through the ADC at certain cohorts of young people
what we find is from the very start certain cohorts of children are
different to others. We find that boys start school way behind girls, this does
even up a bit over time. We find our Indigenous students start school way
behind their non-Indigenous counterparts. Most and least disadvantaged areas, so if
you happen to be born in a poorer suburb you are far more likely to start school
behind your peers and if you’re born in a more wealthy suburb and interestingly
very remote and City in fact any sort of regionality places you behind your peers
and that’s tempered a little bit by socio-economic status but not entirely
being away from the city does mean you’re more likely to be more vulnerable.
And I had a bit of a play with this start, looking at one of the key
academic domains, which is language. We’ve heard a lot about how children
have, you know, there’s a million word gap or a thirty million word gap, it’s a little
contentious there but students who start school – children who start school with
more words are more likely to achieve their NAPLAN benchmarks more likely to
finish school to go on to higher education. And we find by looking at
the language domain is that certain children fare even worse than they do
across the broad indicators so Indigenous students fare a lot worse
than we would expect because it’s not just down to language our language
background other than English students don’t fare near as badly so there’s
something else going on there. We find that there’s a huge gap between our most
our least disadvantaged areas and we find that that remoteness factor appears
even more strongly here, that children in very remote areas aren’t hearing the
same number of words, aren’t able to process information and to indeed make
themselves known at school the same as other children are. So I had a bit of a
play then looking at some of our communities because the ADC does
fantastically you can actually you can dig into various communities across the
country and what I did with this is I had a look at our most wealthier high
socio-economic community and our lowest socio-economic community. And what I
found by looking at these communities is there’s really stark differences, it’s really
tiny to see here, but our highest socio-economic community is Ku-ring-gai
and it has vulnerability of about 13%. So some kids are vulnerable some children
are vulnerable in every single community across Australia but what we see looking
at this data is that for the children of Ku-ring-gai they’re likely to attend
multiple types of early learning they almost universally attend preschool, most
of them will attend long day care as well, quite a few of them also attend
playgroup. So they have lots of interactions with other adults that are
able to provide parents with assistance. Give parents some guidance if the
children might have special needs as they do across the whole of the country.
So we do find that you know a small proportion of kids in that suburb are
referred because they have special needs. There’s not that many students that need
further assessment upon starting school. Then if you look at almost the opposite
suburb of Murgon, so we’ve got a suburb that’s in a regional area it’s a heavily
Indigenous place, about one in two children there start school behind their
peers. They’re far less likely to go to forms of early learning, most of them go
to preschool, perhaps not for the full 15 hours a week, some of them go to some
forms of playgroup or go to some long daycare as well but they have far less
contact with other adults. And about one in three of those children end up having
special needs when they start school so they might have things and this comes
back to the language slide before, they might have things like hearing disorders,
which is why their language hasn’t developed. They might have speech
disorders, they may not be able to see properly, they might have some
undiagnosed health conditions that are going to get in the way of their
learning and need to be addressed. The other thing I looked at in this data
is what different starts most socio-economic make compared to
regionality, so I had a look at Brimbank, which is a low socio-economic
suburb/council area in Victoria. About one in four kids there are disadvantaged.
And then I had a look at Wellington, which is down out of south east of
Melbourne here near Gippsland, a similar number students of there are disadvantaged
even though it’s a much higher socio-economic suburb than Brimbank is,
because what appears to happen is that whether you’re away from the city or if
you have socio-economic issues you have troubles accessing the services that you
might need to get your child started off on the right foot. You also find that things like workforce issues in our early childhood centres be
they are centres our low socio-economic areas or actually go further away from
the city, our childhood centres struggle to get
highly trained staff and this continues on when we start having a look at how
this disadvantage goes on in schools because we know that most kids attend
school most of the time but for a core number of students they’re actually not
there for a significant amount of time. They’re missing around about a month of
school every year so if they make it through two years 10, 11 or 12, they’ve
missed at least a year of schooling and this is particularly profound if you
have a look at our remote and our very remote communities there but we find
that our very remote students are more likely to not be in school at times then
they’re more likely to be in school. So this adds up to a whole lot of learning
that’s lost. Across government primary schools about 350,000 students missed 10 percent of school about a month a year and then this rises as a proportion as we
look at the further and further away from a city you go. Now it’s not just attendance that we
need to think about though when we think about who’s going to higher education. We
need to think about aspirations and barriers to children actually living out
those aspirations. We know from some studies that have been done, mainly
overseas, on four and five and six year old kids, they all have fairly similar
aspirations. They all want to be the things that they see in books, that their
parents tell them about, you know, they want to be doctors they want to be
soccer players and footy players and policemen and firemen. They look fairly
similar when they’re really little and then you get to eight or nine and the
realities of life start to settle in for some of these kids and instead of
wanting to be those things that may require them to stay at school for a
long period of time they start to they start to narrow down and think about
what might be realistic and that’s based on what they can see around them. If they
don’t have touch points with, still going to say touch point with industry, that sounds
really grand but if they don’t know people that work, if they don’t get to
hear about different sorts of jobs, if that isn’t part of their daily reference,
it is hard for them to think about where they might go next. There’s also a big
gender bias in this, we know that young girls in particular start to narrow down
their options when they’re still in primary school. If they don’t see
particularly with STEM, if they don’t see models of science and maths that make
sense to them, they don’t see engineers being caring or doing things that they’d
like to do, they tend to start to exclude those options and potentially not focus
as hard. We know that children need multiple
touch points with industry so they need to go out and do work experience, they need
employers to come into the school, they need at least four different
interactions throughout their primary and secondary school engagement to
actually start to make more valid career choices that that might suit them down
the track and this means that we need more dedicated career advice. Career
advice in Australia is patchy, it happens in some places and not in others,
traditionally it happens at Year Ten. Career advice is about what subjects do
you want to choose if you’re going to go on for Year 11 and Year 12 that will
inherently maximise your ATAR score. Now what we know is that some young
people aren’t that great at figuring out what they like and what they’re good at.
We know this is a particular problem for our low socio-economic young people, the
LSAY data that was used for this report and can also be sort of jumped into and
had a look at as far as, how do young people recognize their skills like their
enterprise skills, their critical thinking, their creativity, their
collaboration. What you find by looking at LSAY is that academically bright
young people from low socio-economic areas don’t recognize those skills that
well. Some of them will think they have them some won’t whereas if you look at
your high socio-economic students they will think in droves and be able to talk
about the fact they have these skills so we need to do a better job at
encouraging our students, at showing our students, ensuring they can showcase the
skills that they have and ensuring they can recognize them as they start to plan
their futures. We know there is a level of uni-bias, university bias in our
schools if schools are advising students on where to go it’s generally a careers
teacher that’s been through University and that’s her main or his main
frame of reference with where students should go. So it’s hard for students to
see the whole range of options and this means there can be a big mismatch
between a young person’s aspirations if they know where they want to go and then
the pathway that they undertake. And this was just a small table from the latest
VET review that was undertaken that shows how many young people actually
want a job that will require vocational qualifications in particular but do end
up undertaking a bachelor’s degree. There is a small amount of mismatch in the
other way as well but it’s the bachelors one where nearly nearly half the
students aside now I want to do something that requires me I need
vocational education or they should know that they need vocational education
maybe they want to be an engineer but more of an applied one maybe they want
to be a web designer but they default to going to university. I do wonder how many
of these students feature in the figures that we’ve heard today. So what do I think would help? I
definitely don’t have all the answers here this is more a grab bag of ideas
that I’m interested in. Early education and parental support, one of
the keys to getting more students, more students from equity groups through has
to be starting early and trying to stop that early disadvantage. Career education
models trying to figure out what actually works. It’s all well and good to
say we need to start having these conversations in primary school but we
don’t actually have any living proof of examples that that work out there.
They’re happening in small centers and towns, often philanthropically funded,
generally not evaluated, we don’t really know, we need to build a better evidence
base on this. We need to help all learners see their growth and
progression so what are you good at? What do you want to develop over time? We
should be looking at alternative models potentially, how do we combine more work
and study? If part-time study doesn’t work for lots of people – there’s such a
high dropout rate – what else can we do about that? And is there a way we can
help our students get credit for these part degrees if students are dropping
out at those rates? What learnings can they actually gather for that? Is
there a role for something like micro-credentialing in there? Thank you [Ben Dolman] Thanks Megan for that fantastic
presentation, on particular emphasising some of the difficulties for young
people from disadvantaged backgrounds in choosing pathways through education and
into careers. Our third speaker is Professor Sue Trinidad and she’ll be
talking to us about what the demand driven system meant for individuals
whereas there was a lot of focus in the Commission’s report about what we
see in the data in terms of changes in who attends university and how they fare.
Sue’s going to focus down and what it means very much at a personal level.
Professor Trinidad is Director of the National Centre for Student Equity and
Higher Education funded by the Australian Government and
hosted at Curtin University. This is a role that she’s been in since June 2013.
She was previously Deputy Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of Teaching and
Learning in the Faculty of Humanities at Curtin also. She has overseen extensive research including on the higher education
participation and partnerships program on the outcomes for low SES Indigenous
and regional students and in various other areas of higher education. Thank
you Sue. [Sue Trinidad] So congratulations to the Productivity Commission on their report
launched today. This is an important report which makes a stronger case for
more discussion around what needs to happen in schools and the whole
educational lifecycle when looking at University outcomes. By the time
disadvantaged and marginalised students enter university they need extra
supports in place to ameliorate the barriers to succeed. The educational life
cycle in this context shows that there are mixed results, as you’ve just heard,
such as the risk of going to university if you are an equity student, financial
burdens and distance from University and all of this plays a role in dampening
access, particularly among regional and remote students in Australia. So the
Australian Government Department of Education under their access and
participation program is working to ensure that all people with the desire
and the capability to attend to university have the opportunity to do so
and succeed in their studies regardless of their background and that’s a key. So
the higher education participation and partnerships program or HEPPP is one of
these programs and I wanted to highlight the benefits of and a case for the need
for the additional funding that’s been spent on equity students in order
to improve retention and completion rates. There’s also a strong case for
bolstering support for regional students and a number of
initiatives are underway such as the regional study hubs across Australia and
the importance of university enabling and bridging programs which allows
students to try to test university study before they’re fully committed as not
everyone is suited to university study. So there is a ripple effect which I want
to just briefly talk about and we all understand that education is
transformative, therefore equity status is important and this effect is
present among equity students to a greater degree. So as part of our brief
at the National Centre, what we’ve been doing is building the evidence base.
We’ve produced a series of ‘my student’ voices where students across Australia
have been able to share their individual life changing stories, of
their triumphs to succeed in study at the higher education level. And I wanted
to just give you a quick snapshot of some of those students coming through
University supported HEPPP funded programs. And these students all presented at the
World Access Day to Higher Education last November in Australia where we ran
that part of the conference joining with the UK and other countries to promote
equity and access and participation in higher education. So you can see here
Jonathan and he has overcome significant barriers to success. He was streamed out
of ATAR but he’s still aspired to go to university, so with the support of Canning
College Flying Start Program and the Murdoch On Track Program, Jonathan
has experienced significant personal growth both mentally and academically
through higher education and would you believe he’s currently completing his
doctorate and he gained a first-class honors in
psychology and philosophy at the undergraduate level. Jed Fraser is
one of our Aboriginal people coming through and he’s studying a graduate
diploma in public health at QUT and he is passionate about Indigenous education
and works with Indigenous youth to inspire further post-school study. He’s
received a number of awards and his work in the Indigenous communities allows him
to be an ambassador for the Explore the Uni Program helping others. Tahlia she was first in family to
complete school and attend university. And Tahlia has a unique perspective on
higher education because she’s actually spent the last five years working in
school outreach programs for metropolitan and regional universities
to ensure that other disadvantaged young Australians realized their real
potential and just like Jed, Tahlia is giving back to the community and she is
on a mission to tackle educational equality in Australia by supporting
students from disadvantaged backgrounds to improve their access to and attainment
in higher education. And Arshya, she has grown up in a remote area of Western
Australia and participated in the aspire UWA program that offers regional
students in regional areas of view of University and making it an achievable
goal. So benefits you often find with such students is that they’ll go back to
their communities and become contributing members in their regional
towns and Arshya appreciates that university can be scary and unfamiliar
but it is important that students understand their circumstances don’t
have to define what they can do. And Helen is a mature aged student living in
a country town in Queensland and born with a physical disability she
competed in the workplace until an increasing loss of mobility
ended her career in finance. Helen is continuing to work in the online world
and without the Internet she could not achieve her goals, and she was quoted in
saying the greatest benefit of my disability has given me the strength
against adversity and the second is my love of creating and learning online. My
next mountain may be my doctorate. And Mitchell here’s a Vietnamese Australian
graduate of the University of Sydney and first year English high school teacher
and it was through the financial and social support of the Smith family that
Mitchell found inspiration and resilience with him within himself to
overcome the barriers of poverty and achieve his goals and there’s his very
proud mother at his graduation. So building the evidence base of research,
we’ve been able to put together and fund often unique research projects such as
this original piece of research that was conducted with Andrew Harvey at the La
Trobe University. The impact of our original funding of the
La Trobe care leavers research has led to a report that has inspired multiple
Australian universities to develop programs for care leavers and has led to
a large multi institutional national priority pool grant and then a Meyer
foundation large grant as well as Victoria government funding. So this has
led onto five-fold increase in care leaver students across two universities
being able to participate in University study and several other programs have
followed on from there. So this is an example of the ripple effect that I want
to highlight and you can see the student there Nicola-Jean Berry,
her story is one where she grew up in northwest coast of Tasmania and from the
ages of three to ten she spent time in and out of the foster care
system becoming a ward of the state at at 11. Now at 24, Nicola-Jean is a
first year student at La Trobe University in Melbourne studying social
work and she wants to be able to support others. Give them the support
that she did not have herself. So we have a huge number of publications at our
website and I have a card for those who are interested in coming and having a
look at the research and the case studies that we’re building. We have over
a hundred and thirteen case studies in three publications of the HEPPP funded
projects and the last of these looked at seven years on, and so I just wanted to
give you a quick snapshot of some of those specific programs. So this one here
is the You See For Yourself breaking down barriers to higher education for
students in year 7 to 10 from financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
And I’ve just chosen… the next one is Bridges to Higher
Education and that’s a multiple University partnership that’s been
working in New South Wales and the final one is the children’s
University in Adelaide allowing young children to aspire to university and to
understand what they need to get there. So I’ve just shown you a quick snapshot
of three but there’s over another hundred and ten that you can have a look
at, so there is some fabulous work that’s happening across our universities. We’ve
also been able to fund a lot of small grants and we have 47 research projects
undertaken to place and it was pleasing to see some of that highlighted in the
Productivity Commission report. For instance, Buly Cardak and his
colleagues where they were able to look at the study that actually assessed the
home address and the residential address of our regional students and there was a
need to change some of the way that we were counting our students within our
universities because there are actually many more students leaving their regions
and coming to the metro area to study. We also have through the Australian
Government six equity fellows that have been funded and there’s another six
equity fellows to come over the next two years and these people what they have
done over the years is worked on a significant piece of work and they’ve
also spent time within the Australian Government Department of Education in
Canberra so it is an opportunity to really have the government department
working with leaders within research and I just wanted to highlight a couple of
these all of this is again on our website but for instance Kathy stones
research on the support of online students which has resulted in a set of
guidelines that’s been widely taken up by universities across Australia. Erica Southgate’s research on fair connection to professional careers and that
actually supports the productivity commission’s results that equity
students are more likely to go into careers such as education and nursing
and Louise Pollard’s research on our remote students as such a special cohort
we also have a report about to be released and this is looking at through
Maria Rossetti’s work how the perceived risks of going to university influenced
the decision by people from low SES backgrounds to participate in higher
education so people may choose not to attend university based on their
assessment of the perceived read risks rather than a lack of aspiration or
ability and so this research is showing you that students are thinking clearly
about their vocational options never got navigating career pathways is often
daunting and this is amplified for students from disadvantaged backgrounds
and we have another large piece of work that’s being done at the moment.
Sara O’Shea. And she’s looking at mind the gap exploring the postgraduate
outcomes and employment mobility of individuals who are first in their
family to complete an education degree so all of this information is on our
website we also are able to highlight the mixed results and you may be
interested in having a look at our data program that is an interactive resource
as a part of the National Center project to promote public access to data about
student equity outcomes and this allows users to come in and compare Australian
universities and you will see that there are mixed results there so I’ve just
given you two examples here from West Australian universities so my last two points
I could not finish up today without highlighting the regional study hubs how
many people have heard about the regional study hubs great
we’ve just held a conference in Geraldton and we really learned about
the tyranny of distance because there are 16 hubs at 23 sites across regional
Australia and so we’re coming together forming a network and looking at how
these not-for-profit groups that have just been funded by the Minister will
provide infrastructure such as study spaces, video conferencing, computing
facilities and internet access, as well as academic support for students across
Australia and so this is really a wonderful initiative that’s going
forward and finally the best chance for all. So in June 2018 the National Center
set out to develop a long term strategic vision for student equity in Australian
higher education and through a national collaborative process under the banner
of student equity 2030 the core outcome of this process is the best chance for
all undertaken by our equity fellows Matt Britt and Nadine Zechariah and gain
this work is on our website and it’s proposed a national policy statement for
student equity in Australian tertiary education. So I’d like to sum up and and
thank you for this opportunity to expand on why there is a mixed scorecard and I
hope that you’ve been able to see some of the wonderful ripple effects
happening to enable support access and participation to ensure that all people
with the desire and capability to attend university have the opportunity to do so
and succeed in their studies regardless of their background. Thank you. [Ben Dolman] Thank you Sue for those really quite
moving stories of individual opportunity and success at university and also thank
you for coming across from Perth today to join us for this session our final
speaker is Andrew Norton. Andrew is higher education program director at the
Grattan Institute. He’s written extensively on higher education issues
including publications such as: Taking university teaching seriously, Doubtful
debts – the rising cost of student loans and The Cash Nexus – how teaching funds
research in Australian universities. In 2014, he co-authored with Dr David Kemp
[the government appointed] he was appointed as the government reviewer of
the demand-driven system. He is also an honorary fellow at the Centre for the
Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne. Andrew. [Andrew Norton] Thanks
Ben and thanks also for the great work you’ve done on this report. so I’ve
changed my title a little bit. As Michael said, there’s a long history of increased
enrollments in Australian universities and this is the long run participation
rate increase at age 19. So you can see we’ve gone from a relatively elite
system about 15% participation in the the 1970s to over 40% at age 19 now. I
think LSAY is getting a high number but at age 19 we’re fairly confident
that’s about right. So we have been in an era of mass higher
education for a long time, so it raises the question of what kind of mass higher
education system is demand driven funding? I think it’s one characterised –
compared to our typical block grant system where the government gives a
fairly fixed sum of money to each university – relatively higher levels of
institutional autonomy, relatively high levels a student choice and
relatively low levels of government direction. And what I think this produces
is a smoother relationship between underlying demand – which is often driven
by demography – and university participation. And you can see in this is
lots of bumps in ups and downs in the participation rate and sometimes for
example in the late 1970’s and early 1980s, the number of student places is
still going up but because we have this baby boom moving through the system, the
participation rate goes down. In my view with demand driven funding you won’t get
those same kinks where demography drives participation down. Now Australia is not
unique in this, this is a global trend of increasing participation attainment. This is just have a very short period of time you can see how it’s going up. And
so what’s driving this? Now clearly there are labor market issues going on but I
think it’s beyond that. There are very deep social and cultural changes which
are driving similar trends in different countries despite a very wide variety of
funding systems. You know some of these countries have free education, some have
quite expensive, some have loan system, some don’t. What’s
striking is the trends are so similar. Here in Australia, at least since the
early 1990s, well over half of senior secondary students have expressed a
preference for university education. They’re going back about 30 years. And we
can see that this includes many people who are actually quite uncertain about
what they want to do after school. And so increasingly, in my view, higher education,
as I said this, is becoming a default option. Not just for those who were clear
about what they want to do but for those who are not. And I think in the
upper-middle class at least and in some ethnic communities, you would need a very
good reason about why you’re not going to go to university even if you don’t have
concrete ideas about what you want to do next.
I think these preferences over time are morphing into
expectations – personal, parental, school, broader social and in my view, it’s the
pressure this creates in the political system that actually means that whether
you’ve got demand-driven funding or some other system, you will over time see
increased participation regardless of the funding system. And so for me, many of
the issues are identified in the report, are general issues of mass higher
education. I don’t believe we could go back to another low participation system
and I think it’s desirable, I don’t think it’s politically possible but I do
believe at the margins we can do a better job to reduce some of the risk
that students are taking and help them get better outcomes. You’ve already seen
this slide, striking that there’s still expected under education as well as over
education and I think behind this there’s also a bit of there’s some
unrealistic aspirations around jobs. So if you look at those same senior
secondary school students surveys, about 60% will say that they want a
professional managerial job. Look at the more recent cohorts are probably looking
at 40-something percent and I’ve already got this issue with probably 25 to 30%
of people who do have a degree are in jobs that wouldn’t typically require one.
So as as we’ve already been said we can do more to advise about careers. Now in
all higher education systems, particularly mass ones, there is some
balance to be struck between opportunity and risk and the report really
highlights this – that the students that we have taken in in the last wave of
expansion – while the majority of them are going to complete and a majority will
get decent jobs, there are a substantial number who will not do that and
therefore they’re at higher risk than the other students in the analysis. Now
if you look around the university websites as to their criteria for
admitting students, every single one says that the prospects of success are
one of the criteria they use or words to that effect. But as far as we could find
not a single one states what is a reasonable prospect of success. So it’s
left completely to the universities or the students in their decision to apply
what is an acceptable prospect of success. My view and this is based on
work by my colleague Ittima – at the back has done – it’s in our report on
dropping out last year – probably about one in five students, commencing students,
is more likely to drop out than to complete. So we’re actually exposing for
some students to quite substantial risk. Perhaps at the extreme ends are you
probably should not admit them in the first place but in my view people have
different appetites for risk and if you’re told that you’re a 50/50 chance
of completing some people would say okay I’ll try others would say no that risk
is too high for me. So we probably should do more to inform people of the risks
they’re taking. If they do decide to take them, we need to advise them about how
they can reduce them. In our research, the single biggest risk factor is not low
ATAR, it’s part-time study and all those who continuously study part-time less
than 30 percent are likely to finish their degree so it’s very high risk and
it’s usually because the people who study part-time have other things going
on in their lives that make study hard from a practical point of view. A lot of
them can’t do anything about these other requirements but we can see in the
enrollment data that many people do shift from part-time to full-time and so
sensible advice about that early on could probably improve situations. Our system already has what I think is
globally quite an interesting way of managing risk, even though I don’t think
it was set up to do this, the effect of it is that it does. And that is that we
have through our census date system, effectively particularly a four-week try
before you buy system before you become liable to pay
your student contribution. Most other countries will only give you one or two
weeks of teaching time before you are liable to pay your fees so that our
system basically gives you the chance often to do some assessment work, see
whether it’s right for you and leave without cost.
So I think this is in principle a great system and many people do in fact use it.
However work we’ve done at the Grattan Institute shows that there is
substantial ignorance around the census date, so some students have never heard
of it, some students confuse it with some other important date at the university
or others might know it exists but not know when it is. So there are people who
sail past the census date, acquire a student debt even though they don’t
intend to complete the subject. What we’ve got here so it’s hard to quantify
this group but you can see there that substantial numbers of people fail all
subjects that they enroll in in their first semester and another non-trivial
group goes on and fails everything in second semester as well. Now some of
these people are genuinely trying and not succeeding but our view and this is
backed up by talking to some universities is that others the reason
they’re failing is they haven’t done any assessment work they’re not there that
left the university but haven’t officially only enrolled and as a result
probably substantial numbers are completely, needlessly incurring HELP
debt. So what can we do about this? Well some universities are already quite good
on this in the sense that they are keeping track of what students are doing
and encouraging them to either get engaged or to leave before they incur a
debt. But this could be a mandatory requirement as
it already is for the non-university higher education providers. And we can
also do something pretty simple which is this census date, this name goes back
decades, it’s from the point of view administrators how many students do we
have? Change the name to something like payment date or debt incurrence date
and I think that will focus students minds on what this date really means. So
it’s actually a financially very important date. So just in summary, to me
the case for the demand driven system is not that it’s perfect it clearly isn’t
but in its capacity compared to other systems to quickly adapt to underlying
needs. But like any mass higher education system this does mean substantial
numbers of new students are at higher risk of not getting positive outcomes
compared to a more elite system. And I think this is something we need to work
on regardless of whether we stick to the current system of captive government
funding or go back to our demand driven system sometime in the future. Thank you. [Ben Dolman] Thanks very much Andrew. So you’ve heard from all our panelists now about what’s happened under the demand driven
system, about early childhood and what it means for people’s prospects of success,
about some of the stories that people that have overcome disadvantage and
succeeded at university and also from Andrew about some of the financial issues
in particular around mass higher education systems. We’ve got time for
some questions. We have about twenty minutes, we’ll have a roving mic on the
floor so if you want identify yourself and also who on the panel you want to
direct your question to. Down the front. Hi, I’m Conor King, I come from the
Innovative Research University group and just make a couple of contextal
comments to go to the Commission. So first as a group, I argue you have strongly
advocated that people ought to be finishing school and then going on to
some tertiary qualification whether that or higher ed with that we need both
systems working well. The bit about the report that is perhaps novel and
really welcome is trying to go back to the school link about how well-prepared
people are for either of those futures and the interesting thing which we put
in a comment to the Melbourne declaration last week is that plan gets
through to year nine you know an actual skill level, there’s nothing in year
twelve except in New South Wales that actually tells you what those students
have achieved, everythone else the twelve system otherwise normalizes so
they force an average, so from year to year you’ve got no idea whether
anyone’s better or worse, indeed what people do know now that were perhaps
clearer it might actually have some interesting implications for how people
transit on to whatever goes beyond that. So that’s really welcomed I think
something we need to work through. Using LSAY is great we’ve also tried
to use that now own analyses but not try to split between the kind of who who
extra who would have been there the problem weakness which there is as with
many analyses that’s a very school leaver driven focus so some universities
will may only have ten percent of people who are mature age coming in my members
are more like twenty or thirty (just doing this from memory and guess)
but Charles Darwin’s probably what over half so that’s set were there before and
may have changed or may not, so that’s the only risk about saying this is a
pure analysis demand-driven does miss that one group, then in terms of some of
the things in there the that LSAY says, the analysis we did, using LSAY
just on one cohort is that the VET take-up is much higher in the lower
SES areas and the sort of inversion there
so if actually people worried about people over consuming higher where
there’s people in the eastern suburbs on the northern suburbs of Sydney etc but
no one advocating a policy yet that I’ve heard of to constrain their access to
higher education but it’s the logical answer if you will you’re worried about
that. I just throw that around occasionally because I guess people will
be provoked. So the things did you or did you not look at? One thing that my
group has constantly done on our analyses is look at discipline change and of it’s
just the whole 100 percent group, so just interested whether of course your
difference you pick up that because where the growth happened was in
sciences and health and medical health courses. And this important because
the throwaway line from people is there’s a lot of lawyers, we don’t need
extra lawyers and that lawyers have not been the growth area the funding system
didn’t did not encourage it, the old one used to and the current one does, so if
you don’t want lawyers you don’t have the current funding system but I was
wondering whether you did look at that point. At a guess I wonder whether the
the new set maybe went more for the the health courses has been practical and
bleeding somewhere to – just a guess. If you didn’t do gender and the low ATAR
people going into university tend to be women and my hypothesis is because
they see that it’s much more useful for them compared with the young men who
either recommend get away with their brawn or just simply don’t care so there
was a difference that shows up in most other analyses at under whether it
showed up anything you did. So they’re my two particular points about to you. [Michael Brennan] Thanks Conor, so firstly on the point about I was going to say mature rates
but really just older aged units it is a point well made and as a point
Universities Australia has made this morning, particularly in relation to
Indigenous students where as we noted in the report a higher proportion of
Indigenous students are enrolling and at an older age group at the LSAY by its
nature wouldn’t necessarily pick that up so that’s a limitation. On the two things
you mentioned, so firstly on gender. Gender is interesting so my recollection
which Marco can probably correct is that we found among the additional
students that it was more balanced in terms of gender than the other students
so the other students were heavily weighted in favour of females as the
general university population is but the gender balance of the additional
students was closer to 50/50 but I would have to take the precise take, the
precise ratio on notice and on the disciplines we did try to have a bit of
a look that, I might get Ben to expand on this, but we did try to take a look at
what evidence can we bring to bear on the question of whether or not the
demand mix the the course mix is reflecting underlying demand out there
in the economy and it’ll shock you to know it was a mixed report card. So there
has been a significant rise in health and that’s using more the aggregate data
than it is looking at the additional students per se. The additional students
as I said more likely to study education, more likely to study IT and more likely
to study the management/commerce type degrees but it’s arguably something
better looked at in terms of the aggregate data and the aggregate data
reflect there’s been a significant rise in health and that does reflect an
underlying skill need in the economy but then there are other other areas where
it’s harder to drive the or identify the correlation between what what’s gone up
in terms of study and where the demand might be. Is there anything Ben that you want to add to that? [Ben Dolman] Nothing from me Michael.
Then I was wondering Andrew whether you’ve got a perspective on growth in the
system and and how it relates to demand in the economy. [Andrew Norton] So clearly health was a
major or single largest increase in the demand driven era. There was one which those
of you afford me over time will realize particularly annoys me which is the
growth in science which has turned middling graduate outcomes to terrible
graduate outcomes. On the other hand, we’ve never been able to properly quantify but at least some of these people are gambling that if they do biological sciences they
later get into one of the high and health courses and so you could
argue that even though that gamble clearly failed and they’re not getting
here not getting into health, look any any kind of good job, it wasn’t totally
irrational on day one. I’ve also seen huge boom in psychology, again not with
very good outcomes. I think this is partly a consequence of what kind of
information people are getting about the world, so what we see is that in areas
where there are clear skill shortages going on in the economy,
somehow this filters through to the applications data and a demand driven
once the applications move usually supply does as well so that’s one
strength of the demand driven system, but you do have I think weaknesses in this
information flow and particularly when you’ve got government out there saying
‘Do STEM, do STEM, do STEM, do STEM’ – people pick up this message and do STEM when in fact
electing. STEM is not a unified field theory fact you know the S, the T, the E and the M – are
all quite distinct in in their outcomes and to my mind there has been some very
bad advice out there over a long period of time and it’s still going on
encouraging women to do STEM. The last thing we need is more young with
Biological Sciences degrees. They’re already doing very badly. So we can
improve on information. I think the difficulty is in not so much in matching
the skill shortages but in picking up where there is oversupply and telling
people there is oversupply. I think part of that is the department being much
better at letting the enrollment data flow more quickly. At the moment
it’s all happened you know a year to 18 months ago, before you even know there’s a
problem and then some kind of more organized way of actually saying across
the system we can see that there are way too many students particularly the
vocational fields are relative to the likely demand for them. [Ben Dolman] Thanks Andrew,
we’ll take another question from the floor. [Online facilitator] Hi, I’ve actually got a question
from someone who’s watching from our livestream –
from Jack Goodman – and I think I might direct this one to you Sue. Given the
reports evidence that disadvantaged students who enroll at university are at
substantially greater risk of attrition, should the government consider providing
more economic support via HECS/HELP to these students and less to students who
aren’t disadvantaged and then measuring universities regarding the extra support
they are delivering to ensure these students succeed at the same rate as
their more privileged peers? [Sue Trinidad] Great question, yes, these students definitely
need extra support but politically I’m not quite sure what we can do but I do
know at the moment there are recommendations coming from the national
regional education strategy so particularly a lot of these students are
from regional areas so there’ll be recommendations coming out in the June
the 30th report and I would imagine that they will be some policy directions that
the minister will look at and take on board but definitely these students do
need additional help how we actually work that through the system is
something that needs to be driven by the Minister in the policies through the
Australian Government Department of Education. [Ben Dolman] Thanks Sue. Another question here in the room? Yes, Stephen King from the Productivity Commission. [Stephen King] So I want to
follow up on that question, how – and for anyone to jump in – the question was how
much should the government be doing through things like fee help to assist
students who need more assistance to successfully complete to a tertiary
education? How much should the onus actually not be the government’s
responsibility but the institution’s responsibility, so to what degree should
the universities themselves be accountable for the outcomes for
their students? They are in an excellent position to make judgments about
students on the way in, they are in the best position to provide supports on the
way through and the success of their students, you would hope, as a metric that
the universities care about – so should we actually be moving with the demand
driven system to a system that also rewards universities or at least bases
some of their funding on the outcomes of their students receive? Rather than
simply having agreed with the Commission on their main report. [Andrew Norton] I don’t usually
agree with them on the performance funding idea I think there are a lot of
problems here about to whether the universities will game this in various
ways and and to what extent they can control some of the outcomes and then a
further one to what extent can you measure some of the outcomes because
some of these are sample surveys and I think that when the performance funding
is announced fairly soon you know some of them were rewarded for or penalised
for simply within the margin of error on the survey and so you know is that a
kind of sensible policy there are some things I think we can do, for example,
attrition is one reasonably good indicator and this is something that
regulator TEQSA – of which is in this very building – does look at but what they do
is they look at all students and particularly when you’ve got you know
the universities mostly other students who would have gone anyway who are doing
okay, some pretty terrible results for the additional students can be hidden in
that number and one of the things we recommended in our dropping out report
last year was to actually break down the attrition numbers by the groups we know
have a history of vulnerability and so that if a university is doing bad
on one of these vulnerable groups they are in trouble with the regulator. That
they either need to show how they’re going to improve these numbers or they
need to scale back the enrollments of that group. [Ben Dolman] Sue, I wonder if you’ve got
observations in that topic as well from your work with the HEPPP about what
universities can control in terms of influencing student success. [Sue Trinidad] Definitely
through scholarships so I know that the scholarships are use to help equity
students that’s financial help and support so that’s been one way that
universities have been looking at helping equity students. Also a lot of
the HEPPP funding has gone into mentoring or ambassador type programs which can
help students who need that extra support so that that’s an opportunity. [Ben Dolamn] Thanks Sue. And one more question here in the room. We need to work on coordination. [general laughter] [Tania Broadley] It’s like a relay. Tania Broadley – deputy pro vice-chancellor ( learning and
teaching) at RMIT University. I’ve worked in three universities in three different
states and I think I guess what I’d like to pick up on is Sue’s comment about
what universities can control and there is a lot we can control, there’s also
some other things that we can’t control and probably hasn’t been reflected in
the statistical analysis of data. I guess what Sue did was really important in
terms of the narrative around the students and each individual student
having the story to bring to the situation but I just want to pick up on
the the at-risk students that you showed Andrew through the slide that had failed
all units first semester, failed all unit second semester and at universities we
have a lot of policies and practices in place that actually supports students to
be able to have second chances I guess and those that come in and treat their
studies differently to others. And what the what the data doesn’t show are
those narratives around students who are making decisions so sometimes the
policies and practices that we have in place to actually support those students
failing can also be used against us through other students who are playing
the system so I’ve got a number of stories I could talk to you about in
terms of students who are you know on government support for studying and so
they don’t withdraw because they stay connected to the university it puts us
in a position of how do we manage those students without disadvantaging the
students who are truly failing. So I think there’s a lot of complexities
behind the data and I’m sure you appreciate that but would you like to
comment on other issues that you know about that type of data from a more of a
qualitative perspective? [Andrew Norton] I guess our policy recommendations around this is I’m to
take account of the complexity of it yeah for example it’s a requirement that
the university try and ensure the student is engaged but it’s not actually
specifying that you have to bounce them out if they’re not and you know that
change the name of the census date is that is the students decision yeah
whether they want to proceed or not and the reason for this is that we kind of
like when we started that project we thought we could do much more at the
point of admission in deciding who should be admitted and who can’t
and who should not be admitted. I think the growing realisation was that
you just can’t do that. That there is sort of too much
information which nobody knows on the day of admission. The university can’t
tell and the student is yet to really experience what university is like they
might do fantastically they might not but on that day they enroll I don’t know
which category they’re in and so this has to be a process of trial and error.
This is why I like the sort of the four weeks in thing so much compared to one
or two weeks. That four weeks probably is enough to
get a sense of whether or not this is for you and basically at the risk of it
not working out in this case is really pushed back on the university because you don’t get your money if they don’t stay past the census date
and that kind of gets your incentives I think more aligned with those of the
student. [Ben Dolman] We got time for one more question here in the room. [Indistinctive voice] {Ben Dolman] Sure. [Conor King] Craig Robertson who heads TAFE Directors Australia for some reason decide to ask this question via me. So he and I’m sure everyone
asked his question. Well he wants to know what you, Michael, you think should be
done with the VET sector to, in his terms, equalise with the status Higher Ed has? [Michael Brennan] So I think it’s still an open question
as to whether equalization is the right goal. I know the Joyce Review has talked
about that there’s a potential long-term goal, I think it would be good to gather
the evidence. I mean in one sense the VET fee-help approach was an attempt to get
greater neutrality between the associate diploma type level and degree levels and
it didn’t work well, arguably for other reasons but whether whether
equalisations the right thing. I mean I said elsewhere earlier last week that I
feel that part of the challenge for the VET system has been the the way that
policy has effectively worked in that sector has been to result in a situation
where significant changes have been made with very little notice that make a big
difference to business models very suddenly. And that has been problematic
both for the public providers and the private providers and there’s been an
overall kind of reputational damage partly by virtue of low quality
standards in the sector. So I think for VET I would have thought the real
medium-term challenge is to get a well understood well-functioning market that
has rigorously set subsidies agreed for the various courses and provides a
degree of stability so that a high degree of quality regulation but a
degree of stability that the participants in the in the
sector have that degree of certainty about operating there and we get a good
high-quality form of contestability between the public and the private
providers. [Ben Dolman] Okay so we are coming up against time constraints and just before
we finish up I’d like to pose one question to all of the panelists. My
question is: Is there one burning issue that you’d like to see in higher
education receive more attention or one change that you’d like to see in terms
of higher education policy? Perhaps starting with you Andrew? [Andrew Norton] Despite the
mixed report card that demand-driven funding has been given, my number one
policy item is to bring it back. One of the reasons for that is that we’re about
to hit the Costello era baby boom, sort of one for Mum, one of the country –
lots of one for the country’s – and as a result we’re going to get a huge increase,
particularly in the state of Victoria, in the numbers of students and unless there
is some kind of system that both gives the capacity to increase the number of
student places and encourage universities do so there’ll be a big
drop in the participation rate. Also I believe that is far more flexible in
dealing with future labor market issues than sticking with the current system
which is really going to freeze 2017 in time and that’s not a way to run our
education system. [Ben Dolman] Sue? [Sue Trinidad] Mine’s is not a burning issue but I just like to and I hope that
people acknowledge the power of the HEPPP funded program which has enabled a lot
of people to have support and it would be great to see that continued into the
future so that equity students, disadvantaged, marginalized students are
fully supported to have an opportunity to study. [Ben Dolman] Megan? [Megan O’Connell] I’m interested in seeing if we
can broaden our mechanisms for entry to higher education so we have the
ATAR at the moment and for good or for evil but it does have significant
weight on what happens senior secondary so can we have broader
measures that we actually measure success in Year 12 by. [Ben Dolman] Michael you get
the final word. [Michael Brennan] So I’d love to say PISA scores at school but it’s a big
challenge and it’s not amenable to immediate policy levers that necessarily
bear obvious fruit so I think the more tractable and and perhaps implementable
change in the short term would be perhaps in relation to the HEPPP program.
I’m kind of very taken and persuaded by the points that Sue is made about its
successes. I’m just not sure that there’s been a strong culture of evaluation or
indeed transparency about the way the HEPPP money which has been rolled out to
universities on the basis of enrollments of low SES students, how well that’s
really been tracked and how much surety we’ve got about how well it’s delivered
outcomes. [Ben Dolman] Thanks Michael. Well that brings us to the end of the session today. It’s
been a really, for me, a very fascinating discussions and really complex policy
issues raised today. I’d like particularly to thank our whole
panel and particularly thank our guests – Sue, Megan and Andrew for coming in and
sharing your time and your expertise today and you certainly contributed
fantastic perspectives on the range of issues that affect higher education
access and outcomes. So I would ask the audience to join with me in thanking the
panel in the usual way. [clapping]

2 thoughts on “Higher Education Access and Outcomes Panel Discussion”

  1. Right to education should be matched with right to jobs. Then you will realise how unpredictable the private sector is, for which you are trying so hard to educate all these children. And then you will realise that you need a Job Guarantee based on Modern Monetary Theory.

  2. Pedantry: Wellington is in (and not near) Gippsland. Neither Wellington or Brimbank are suburbs, they are Local Government Areas.

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