A spiky echidna graced the front cover of the the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report revealed on 19 July by Education Minister Jason Clare.
Clare explained that he had asked the panel review team to be bold in their ideas for how to overhaul the troubled higher education sector: ‘To offer up a few big spiky ideas. They took me at my word, hence the echidna on the front page.’
These spiky ideas, proposed under the broad principles of making the sector fairer, more inclusive and more able to serve the job needs of Australia’s future, include: a levy on international student fees, and a huge increase of public funding for universities and academic research to bring it back into line with other OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.
Ahead of the final report due in December, Clare said the Government will act on five immediate actions identified in the interim report:
- Establish up to 20 additional Regional University Study Hubs (formerly Regional University Centres) and establish up to 14 Suburban University Study Hubs.
- Abolish the 50% pass rule, introduced as part of the Job-ready Graduates Scheme, which has had a disproportionately negative impact on students from poor backgrounds and from the regions, and require increased reporting on student progress.
- Extend demand driven funding to all First Nations students who are eligible for the course they apply for. Currently this only applies to First Nations students in regional and remote Australia.
- Extend the Higher Education Continuity Guarantee for a further two years to provide funding certainty to universities as the Accord process rolls out and, as part of this, require universities to invest any remaining funding from their grant each year in additional academic and learning support for students from poor backgrounds, from the regions and from other under-represented groups.
- Work with state and territory governments to improve university governance. This includes university governing bodies having more people with expertise in the business of universities, and a focus on student and staff safety and making sure universities are good employers.
There are also more than 70 policy ideas that the Accord Panel is considering including in its Final Report and it seeks feedback on them by 1 September. For more expert analysis of the Accord, see The Conversation.
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