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Reforms will do nothing for quality or relevance

4 April 2006

Tertiary education reforms will do nothing for quality or relevance

The government's proposed tertiary education reforms appear likely to stifle healthy competition, increase institutions' administrative burden and do nothing to improve the quality and relevance of tertiary education, says Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque.

While measures to improve course and institution information for students and to strengthen quality assurance and monitoring are welcome, most other elements -- greater centralisation of decision-making, reduced student choice and 'cost-based' funding -- are steps backward, Mr LaRocque said.

"The proposals seem designed more to feed prejudices about what is 'good' tertiary education, and expressions such as 'greater differentiation' are merely code for protection from competition."

The 'more detailed' funding system proposed will do little to improve outcomes and will merely add to institutions' administrative burden. If the government is truly interested in increasing value for money, it should reverse its student loan interest write-off that came into effect on 1 April, Mr LaRocque said.

"Tertiary education providers already feel overburdened by bureaucratic processes -- 'Skewered through and through with office pens and bound hand and foot with bureaucracy' to quote Dickens. The proposed reforms will do nothing to alleviate this.

"There is no evidence that this more complex funding system and its attendant army of bureaucrats will yield better results than the current system or indeed that which was operated by just a handful of officials in the late 1990s."


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