Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to the Future: Do We Need a Universities Commission?

University of Melbourne (Trinity College Chape...
UniMelb (Trinity College Chapel) (Wikipedia)
by Professor Simon Marginson, Professor of Higher Education at University of Melbourne, The Conversation:

There’s been a push recently in university circles for a new body to help govern the sector and act as a buffer between the universities and government.

Champions of the idea point to the Universities Commission created under Menzies as a model that could provide governance for the sector as a whole, less directly controlled buy the Minister in Canberra.

As two vice-chancellors, Greg Craven and Glyn Davis recently wrote, a revived universities commission would “allow government - Labor or Liberal - to set basic directions for higher education but allow an expert body to build the policy details in a coherent way.”

Their suggested commission would have a broad mandate to allocate government grants and set student charges.

However, last week, Universities Australia rejected a proposal to set up such a body, citing concerns about additional red-tape. Despite this, the notion of some form of semi-autonomous expert commission or “buffer” body deserves serious consideration. With less than a year until the next federal election now is a good time to discuss it.

A historic model

The federal government first took charge of university funding in 1957 just as the modern mass higher education system was emerging in Australia.

For the next thirty years, Canberra ran policy and funding through the Universities Commission, later called the Tertiary Education Commission when its brief was extended to cover vocational education.

The Tertiary Education Commission was inside government but partly independent of the minister of the day. It built strong expertise, published many reports, encouraged public discussion and took the long view.

In many ways the country was well served. However, over time the Commission moved closer to the sector that it was meant to regulate and this proved its downfall.

When reforming minister John Dawkins took over in 1987 he knew the Commission would oppose the more far-reaching changes he planned. In a stroke he abolished it.

The Minister went on to merge universities and colleges of advanced education in a single system, boost student numbers in higher education by 50%, introduce HECS, whereby students paid part of the cost of their tuition, create the Australian Research Council, and shape a more professional and strategic university leadership.

To read further, go to:
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment