The empire strikes back: Uni Melbourne responds to the Accord

The university argues that increased UG access and improved outcomes will not be assisted by funding more teaching and research academics, which “is the most expensive way to educate increasing numbers of students.” Instead, a “redesign” of the tertiary education system is required.

Uni Melbourne sets out specifics in its own response to the Accord Interim Report, independent of the submission from the Group of Eight, of which it is a member.

“Rather than a one-size-fits all system, the sector needs to move towards a varied tertiary education ecosystem differentiating among teaching-intensive, research-intensive and vocational training institutions, with students able to move among these options.”

The heart of such a system would be “research intensive universities as intellectual powerhouses that advance our understanding of the big problems of our age” There would  also be teaching-intensive institutions and others that specialise “in a defined set of disciplines and professions.”

Voced should be funded and regulated nationally and there should be pathways into the tertiary system for senior high schools.

The central role of research-rich universities appears in-line with the Group of Eight’s suggestion for a Federal system, where institutions would be funded for work in-line with the national research strategy.

The national universities would be hubs to other uni spokes, which would also compete for project-based research funding. 

The Go8 floated this among a mass of ideas, many more politically possible – it is hard to imagine a surer way to blow the Accord up than for it to adopt an explicit tiered system but Uni Melbourne now makes it crucial to how a new tertiary education system should work.

The submission also addresses Accord ideas which the government has already embraced, including the membership mix of governing bodies. “The government could maintain an appropriate level of oversight of university councils without directly appointing members through the use of an agreed skills matrix.”

As for calls for universities to be “good employers,” created in part by managements’ reliance on short-term staff and widespread cases (including at Uni Melbourne) of casuals being underpaid, UoM states, “the introduction of a national mechanism for reporting on workforce data, together with a forum for sharing innovation in best practice workforce planning, systems and processes, between sector members and comparable institutions, would build transparency in the sector’s current and projected workforce.”

And it wants government to stay out of the way. Thus the submission warns, “it is of serious concern that parts of the Interim Report suggest that central planning needs to play a greater role in funding arrangements. A move in this direction will make for a more complex and costly system, and will risk the misallocation of scarce resources.”

And so UoM calls for a, “a small, independent, Accord Forum, supported by deep domain expertise, … agile in its operation, responding to changing needs and in engaging with the sector, avoiding the tendency to bureaucracy and policy homogenisation.”



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