Australian universities

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Many factors outside the higher education sector have had an impact on Australian universities and brought many changes, particularly in relation to a constantly shifting international higher education market, but due to word limit restrictions this thesis ‘Some of the resultant impacts on Australian universities that have been brought on by external factors since the 1980s’ will discuss only four of them. To begin with I will briefly talk about the introduction of the Labor government’s reforms which were instigated in the late 1980s. I will then examine those parts of the reforms which affect the four areas I will discuss. Main points will be the conversion and merger of all Colleges of Advanced Education into universities, government funding and the competition for funding research, the exporting of higher education and the introduction of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme.

A major factor that impacted on Australian universities began in 1988 with the instigation of reforms by Labor Minister for Employment, Education and Training John Dawkins. According to Dawkins Revolution as it is commonly known, was a series of Australian tertiary education reforms. These were first proposed in December 1987 in the Green Paper Higher education: a policy discussion paper which was put together by an unidentified group of advisors. In this Green Paper the government thought it necessary to significantly expand higher education for economic and social reasons. The White Paper Higher education: a policy statement followed in July 1988 and had the same basic policies. The aim of these governmental reforms was to improve the efficiency and international competitiveness of Australian universities. The impact of these reforms on our higher education system is clarified by Barcan’s statement:

In the late 1980s and early 1990s

In the late 1980s and early 1990s higher education (i.e. universities) and advanced education (i.e. colleges and institutes) were dramatically reshaped. The control and organization, the teaching and lecturing corps, the curriculum, the student body, were all transformed, in some instances extremely rapidly, in others steadily but inexorably. Sociologically these changes reflected the operation of economic forces, the initiatives of bureaucracy, the aspirations of egalitarian society, and the pressures of special interest groups. Incompatible and contradictory elements were thrown together in a new `higher education’… (1993. p. 352)

Barcan informs us that at the end of November 1987, prior to the introduction of these papers, the National Board of Employment, Education and Training abolished the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission which had advised the government on all higher education matters and replaced it with the Higher Education Council. This gave the government sole ministerial power over policy formation. (1993).

Further to that, the two papers outlined the elements of a Unified National System. Universities could not be a member of the UNS unless they had a minimum number of 2000 student enrolments. This meant that to fulfil the minimum student quota universities were forced to merge with Colleges of Advanced Education (CAES). As a result of this reform the number of undergraduate students increased significantly. Krause maintains that `…Australia has one of the highest rates of entry into tertiary study in the OECD…’ (2005. Reader p.3). Many academics found the conversion of the CAES into universities hard to take. They argued that owing to the mergers, higher education was dumbing down as college diploma students became university graduates overnight. Added to that, Federal funding was reduced and the traditional universities were then forced to compete for research funds with the new amalgamated universities. This in its turn created great pressure to succeed, the universities needed to reassess all policies and procedures.

In 2002, a report commissioned by The Department of Education, Science and Training ‘outlined the sharp drop in public funding…and the rise in student to staff ratios as student numbers outpaced growth in academic staff’ (Gare. 2006) The report, known as the 2002 report, summarised what happened after the Dawkins reforms:

Universities became `industries’ and academics `workers’ or `employees’ as industrial laws came to regulate academic work. The efficiency principle was invoked and enterprise bargaining began. Academic staff associations became unions and registered themselves with the Arbitration Commission. The vice-chancellors created a new employer organisation called the Australian Higher Education Industrial Association (AHEIA). These two bodies would bargain: greater efficiency or productivity gains from the workers in return for improvements in working conditions or salaries. Later these central negotiations would be replaced by `enterprise bargaining’ within each institution sharpening the new adversarial roles of academics and university senior administrators.

Gare also stated that since the election of the Howard government in 1996 the ‘government’s sources of policy advice narrowed from three entities to just one department – DEST. (2006). The policy shifts

Krause comments that ‘Australia has become a significant exporter of higher education. The education sector has seen a threefold increase in undergraduate enrolments since 1994…’ This means that globalization has brought a considerable rise in the number of university students.

To begin with, I will look at the reintroduction in 1989 of university fees in the form of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). University fees had previously been abolished by Kim Beazley Snr but now under this HECS system, university students were required to pay a fee of $1800 with the remainder of the course cost being paid by the Commonwealth government. In 1996 further changes took place as a three-tier HECS fee structure was formed by the Howard Coalition government. The structuring of these three-tier fees was based on the expected value of a particular course. This value was based on the future likely earnings of the student after graduation, so consequently doctors, lawyers and the like paid higher fees than students studying for a lesser degree. It was at this time that the HECS charges increased by an average of forty percent. In …………………………The Higher Education Contribution Scheme was replaced by the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP), an interest free loan which is jointly administered by the Department Education Science and Training and the Australian Taxation Office. The HELP scheme was available to all Australian citizens and, with some limitations, to permanent residents. …………….. 2007 brought yet another change and HECS places became known as Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP). The Commonwealth government brought another major change to universities by the deregulation of fees in 2005. This permitted universities to increase their fees by 25%. It was, in part, due to the introduction of HECS that student numbers began to grow.

Krause comments that ‘Australia has become a significant exporter of higher education. The education sector has seen a threefold increase in undergraduate enrolments since 1994…’ Australia Globalization has brought a considerable rise in the number of university students. Since 1994 Australia has become a significant exporter of higher education with a threefold and that the increase since 1994.

Market research


1. Reduced Federal Government funding +

2. Policy reforms

3. Globalization – has brought significant rise in the number of uni students

4. Policy shifts – resulted in publication of national level ranking / teaching indicators

5. Internationalisation

6. Increased competition +

7. Inception of the Australian University Quality Agency in 2000

9. Last decade increase in undergraduate students by 28%

- International students have grown threefold

10. University existence depends heavily on market research.

11. Challenges - sectional changes / staff

16. Global and national level?

17. Challenges to policy and practice

18. Raid expansion of online delivery in the last four years

Ockham’s Razor

Teaching and the selling of degrees

Downsizing of academic research

Academic Freedom 2001

and its resultant increase increase of undergraduate and international student growth