Representing quality private education
providers in Australia

A different bent

Monday, October 31 2016

I know what you are expecting……

Well time for something different.

Believe it or not, I often sit and reflect for long periods over the state and direction of Tertiary Education in this country. Its many facets, strengths and weaknesses and its policy direction.

Of late, it has been difficult to put one’s head up and look ahead, as we are being dragged back in the other direction.

So what would a strategic policy engagement look like?

The public value of Tertiary Education needs little reflection. Yes, despite what you may read, a qualification does improve your employability and earnings over your life time. And it’s not even about this mythical world where you complete a qualification and head off to a lifetime job in that occupation you have trained in.

No, perhaps at a time long ago.

Today is about doing what you love, what you are great at and using those skills as you navigate the labour market. Problem solving, creativity, lateral thinking, communication and engagement and work ethic are the way to go.

And of course these things appear across our qualification spectrum.

And yet, does anyone else feel we have lost sight of the true ideals of our system.

In the middle of all of what is tragically happening to our proud sector, I thought I would cast my mind back and find how previous governments might have contemplated reform.

Why do this? It is simply about noting what has changed and what hasn’t. Understanding how could a National Government build a case for reform?

I didn’t have to go far to remember.

One of the big thinking attempts to shape our sector in recent times was the Bradley Review. Oh dear it was released in 2008!

What did it promulgate?

The review was actually set up to ask the hard questions about governance, regulation and how Tertiary Education would be funded.

Reading the review again was intriguing.

Well, the report concluded our system has strengths and challenges – that hasn’t changed.

To fix the system the Report did not recommend any quick fixes, slashing courses or media campaigns.

Just good hard collaborative public policy arguments that required a review of who could authorize a major change agenda and what capabilities might be required to deliver a Tertiary sector for the future.

So what were some of the key recommendations? Let’s list some:

  • Significant changes to both the financing and regulatory frameworks for higher education. This included increasing the number of university graduates and financing the sector based on student demand
  • For the VET sector, there were considerable findings around enhancing pathways between higher Ed and VET and introducing graded assessment in higher level VET qualifications
  • A suggestion that the Australian government negotiate with the states and territories to establish a national regulator for the entire tertiary sector
  • Establishing a tertiary entitlement funding model across higher education and VET commencing (not 8 different entitlements) with the higher level qualifications
  • Creating income contingent loans for VET diplomas and advanced diplomas;
  • establishing a single ministerial council for all tertiary education and training;
  • improving labour market intelligence so that it covers the whole tertiary sector and supports a more responsive and dynamic role for both VET and higher education; and
  • expanding the purpose and role of the National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) so that it covers the whole tertiary sector.

So what I hear you say?

Well, whether you agreed with all or none of the findings, it was a considerable piece of work, underpinned by evidence. Some may argue this was the cause of all of the problems we have today. Others might assert that only bits and pieces of the recommendations were adopted rather than the entire reform agenda.

Regardless, the Report gave us direction and was something against which to shape our debates and policies.

I won’t go on about how well the recommendations were adopted.

But I will say we actually need this deep thinking again.

Different topics and challenges certainly, but a well-resourced and genuine review is surely the way.

Quick fixes don’t work.

Nor do simple solutions to complex problems.

Speaking of which, I am delighted to announce that shortly ACPET will be holding two symposiums designed to focus our action on empowering our sector’s Emerging Leaders and Women in Leadership. These two symposiums will support our members and sector to take an active role in planning for our future.

The two events held at the end of November will provide delegates with the opportunity to listen to some great speakers and collaborate on a forward agenda. 

Quality education is not only about the measures of success, the goals and standards we set our organisations, it is also thinking about the type of leadership we want now and in the future. Look out for the announcements from ACPET shortly.

Rod Camm


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