Big biz signs up to unified tertiary ed system

The Business Council of Australia supports the direction set by Mary O’Kane and colleagues in their Interim Report.

‘Australia’s tertiary education is too divided between higher education and vocational education and training,” BCA argues.

And so it calls for, “an interoperable post-secondary system that will expand the learning and career options available to Australians and provide more choice and control in the skills and education pathways they take.”

A tertiary guarantee should fund life-long learning funded by income-contingent loans, individuals and employers contributing plus a (presumably government) subsidy.

“Over time, this will deliver an integrated and compatible tertiary education system that better connects – and more evenly funds – VET and higher education … this would enable Australians to undertake a mix of university, VET and TAFE courses throughout their lives.”

This is very bad news for universities who harboured hopes that the Accord’s focus would be on HE dividing shares of a bigger pie. Instead a peak business group has signed-on to a transformative plan for a tertiary education system.

But there is more that is bad for universities intent on protecting their patches. BCA proposes new agency Jobs and Skills Australia should determine course demand and advise on subsidies. Plus the Accord, “should reset the fundamental goals of universities, their role in the economy and key aspects of their business model. This presumably would all be overseen by the suggested “permanent forum” of industry associations governments and relevant agencies.

And if this all looks like making HE an extension of industry policy, BCA’s views on research indicate that is what it has in mind; renewing the oft-proposed and always ignored 20 per cent premium for investors collaborating with publicly-funded researchers and calling for stability in R&D commercialisation, notably the Trailblazer programme.

As to basic research, BCA pays it thin-lipped service, calling for, an “increase” in resources for the  Australian Research Council, “to ensure additional funding for basic research.”

All up the BCA signals no support for the Accord as a means to fund universities to do more of the same.



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