“The Australian higher education system is seen to make a fundamental contribution to the future of Australia and plays a vital role in Australia’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social development. The higher education sector educates our future professional workforce, creates future leaders, provides jobs for Australians, drives much of our economic and regional success, and facilitates cultural and trade links with other countries. The sector plays a key role in the growing knowledge and innovation based economic health of Australia. It enriches our social and environmental landscape and promotes the tolerance debate that underpins Australian society “ (DEEWR, 2010, n.p.).
The Australian Government is primarily responsible for public funding of higher education. Funding for higher education is provided largely through:
the Commonwealth Grant Scheme which provides for a specified number of Commonwealth Supported places each year; the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) arrangements providing financial assistance to students; the Commonwealth Scholarships; and a range of grants for specific purposes including quality, learning and teaching, research and research training programmes (DEEWR, 2010, n.p.).
The Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations (DEEWR) is the Australian Government Department has the duty of administering the aforementioned funding. This department also is responsible for developing and administering higher education policy and programs. The Australian Government, the State and Territory Governments, and the individual institutions all share the responsibility in decision-making, regulation, and higher education governance.
The first issue we would like to address is the country’s diminishment of funding toward higher education.
Commonwealth funding for public universities within Australia is at a 30-year low, and is the only OECD country where contribution to higher education remained at the same level in 2005 as it had been in 1995 (Anderson, 2004; Australian Government, 2008). This has led to reductions in staffing, deterioration of staff/student ratios, larger classes, and reduced subject offerings (p. 193). Additionally, overworked faculties are facing increasing workloads and increasing inability to “fulfill their teaching and researching obligations to standards they find personally acceptable” (Anderson, 2004, p. 186). Furthermore, the demise of the welfare state and the rise of neoliberalism has presented a growth in markets making universities more efficient and more competitive in light of Government investment. When asking universities to compete with one another, there is an increased likelihood of poor decision making, decreased efficiency, increased fraud, declining standards, and a decline in the critical academic profession.
The second critical issue we would like to highlight, is increasing the number of college graduates necessary for a highly skilled workforce that can adapt and meet future labor challenges and global demands in the marketplace.
The current attainment of 25-to 34-year-olds holding a bachelors degree is 29 percent. The Council of Australian Governments has proposed reaching a target of 40 percent by 2020 (Australian Government, 2008, p. xiv). In order to increase the numbers of those obtaining educational qualifications, Australia must increase enrollment of under-represented groups who are marginalized in the system. These groups include: Indigenous people, people with low socio-economic status, and those from regional and remote areas.
Minority students and adults over the age of 23 are the fastest growing groups of students in higher education. Australia’s standardization of vocational institutions, as well as academic programs at smaller, more accessible branch campuses and online, will provide greater opportunities for underrepresented, nontraditional and rural populations who have limited access to more traditional universities across the country. Along with greater access, a greater effort needs to be exerted towards targeted outreach and recruitment of these students in an effort to promote higher education as an attainable reality and important investment in future prosperity and success.
Australia’s greatest threat and greatest opportunity are not mutually exclusive. Australia’s ability to capture the growing population of minority students is largely dependent on its ability to remain financially accessible and relevant to this population. Furthermore, the Australian government needs to provide more financial support for higher education and promote higher education as an investment in the nation’s growth, future prosperity and ability to compete in on an international scale. Similarly, improved access and outreach to population groups across Australia is necessary to help facilitate diversity in Australian higher education and create environments capable of attracting and fostering indigenous, minority and other underrepresented and nontraditional student populations. In the end, Australia’s ability to acknowledge and overcome critical threats, as well as recognize and capitalize on opportunities for improvement and growth will go a long way in helping Universities across the country develop while remaining internationally competitive, affordable and diverse.
506 group project australia
Higher Education in Australia
Challenges & Solutions
Michelle Brito, Fenise Dunson, Rachel Hagstrom, Fran Wilkins
The Australian System
• 39 universities: 37 public, 2 private
• More than 150 other providers of
• One of the first to move from an elite
to mass system
• Educational institutions are third-
largest exporter in Australia
• 25 percent of students in Australia are
Critical Issue #1
Australia is lagging behind other countries in investment in
higher education. Allotted funds are below the actual cost of
research. Underfunding has resulted in:
• Increased competition
• Poor decision making
• Decreased efficiency
• Increased fraud
• Declining standards
• Decline in academic professionals
• Significant and ongoing increase of Commonwealth funds
• Government subsidy for every student accepted to an
approved higher education institution
• Challenge the politicians who want to regulate higher
• Political decision, not one driven by faith in the market
because the quality of goods and services is unique in the
• Evaluation of university tuition structures
• Increase enrollment of full-fee and international students
Critical Issue #2
Meeting labor market demands
• Australia needs many more university graduates than it is
• Only 29% of Australians aged 25-34 hold a bachelors
• Goal to increase attainment to 40% by 2020
• Greater levels of attainment is necessecary for national
• Increase enrollment of low-income, indigenous, disabled and
various other underrepresented groups
• Increase access through branch campuses and accredited
• Create strategic enrollment plan to improve outreach and
• Turn operation of vocational and training schools, which are
operated by the state, over to the federal government
–Creates standardization and quality control
–Allows application of federal subsidy to each student
Critical Issue #3
• Average attrition rate is17% across the 12 major universities
• Lack of retention plans and programming on the part of
• Highest amongst non-traditional and underrepresented groups
– Indigenous and minority students
– First-generation students
– Older and non-traditional students
• Pair institutions who are suffering losses with more
successful institutions to develop retention plans
• Exit interview withdrawing students in order to customize an
educational plan that will result in an earned degree
• Reexamine teaching philosophies and research relevant
pedagogies in order to bridge the gap between Australia’s
dominant cultures and the indigenous people
• Provide workshops and cultural programming aimed at
making non-traditional students’ experiences in higher
education relevant, rewarding, and successful
Keys to success in Australian higher education
• Greater government commitment to higher education funding
• Promote higher education and degree attainment as important
to national development
• Attract more full-fee and international students to alleviate
• Promote recruitment, enrollment and outreach efforts for
• Improve access through nontraditional education models
Anderson, G. (2004). 'Voices from the chalkface': the senate inquiry into the capacity of
public universities to meet Australia’s higher education needs. Studies in Higher
Education, 29, 185-200.
Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Department of
Higher Education. (2010). Retrieved from http://www.deewr.gov.au
Australian Government. (2008). Review of Australian Higher Education: Final Report.
Retrieved from DEEWR website: www.deewr.gov.au/he_review_finalreport
Forest, J.F. and Altbach, P. (Eds.). (2007). International handbook of higher education.
Schwartz, S. (2009). Big Ideas for Australian Universities. Higher Education Management
& Policy, 21(2), 35-49. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.
Sheehy, B. (2010). Regulation by markets and the Bradley Review of Australian higher
education. Australian Universities' Review, 52(1), 60-68. Retrieved from Education
Research Complete database.