Back to top

Government responds to the Productivity Commission

10 August 2017 | news

After receiving a “revise and resubmit” on last year’s draft, the Government gave the Productivity Commission’s final report on “New Models of Tertiary Education” a just-passing grade, agreeing with only 12 of the 49 recommendations, suggesting more work is required/agreement in principle for another 28, and rejecting 9 key recommendations.

The Government now has a substantial job ahead to develop a workplan if it wants to make progress on its stated goals of increased innovation, flexibility and responsibility. What does this mean for universities?

Speaking to the Government’s response, Hon Paul Goldsmith (Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment) proclaimed “We have inherited as a country, a world-class university system that is consistently high quality. The Commission didn’t directly focus on this area, but it is certainly one of my overarching concerns, to ensure that we preserve and enhance that global reputation”.

It is pleasing to see the Minister acknowledge the consistently world-class standard of our universities and the importance of preserving and enhancing them. However, we would refute the idea that our high-quality university system is an inheritance.  It is instead the result of sustained commitment from a dedicated and hardworking sector based on active decisions made in the long-term interests of its students, graduates and other stakeholders.

From the universities’ point of view, the Government’s signalling of a measured approach to the Commission’s recommendations is pleasing and we look forward to working with officials and others in the sector to explore thinking in important areas such as: funding structures, performance measures and incentives; fee regulation; a new Tertiary Education Strategy; increased information for prospective and transferring students; teaching quality and reporting.

First up, and alongside existing work on credit transfer and information for learners across the sector, the Government is looking to focus on student analytics, funding for “experimental courses” (not further defined) and micro-credentialisation.

These are all interesting areas of exploration but, we would suggest, simply tinkering with outputs of system rather than making a difference to the underlying structures, the adequacy of investment and correcting incentives for autonomous institutions.

At the same time, the Government has signalled as an immediate priority (within the next 9 months) a review of the statutory requirement that every degree-level programme be taught mainly by people engaged in research. While the Commission’s recommendation was confined to the suggestion that this obligation be removed from “non-university providers”, the Government’s response so far has been less clear. We look forward to engaging closely on this matter, which has significant potential implications for the international standard and reputation of our universities, and our current and future students.

Read the Government's Response: New Models of Tertiary Education - Government Response to Productivity Commission Report