THE Federal Government is likely to shift its focus for university funding to completions rather than enrolments in its response to a base funding review.
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans says the sector already knows he wants to make this shift.
He believes it will help keep quality high in the new era of demand-driven government funding for undergraduate places that began this year.
The Group of Eight, which represents Australia’s eight top research universities, has released a policy paper that says offering more places meant more students who were not well academically prepared would enter higher education.
There was clear evidence that students with lower entrance scores were more likely to drop out of university courses before finishing.
Senator Evans said the notion that opening up access would result in lower quality university education was insulting to universities and insulting to students.
But he agreed there would need to be more support for those students.
“We will have to put greater emphasis on transitional support for some of those students to focus on teaching and learning,” he said at a Universities Australia conference in Canberra on Wednesday.
“I’m looking to refocus funding on completions rather than just commencement to make sure the signals to the sector are strong that the purpose of these reforms is to produce graduates not to produce enrolments.
“If we take the right policy measures to support students we’ll get strong completion rates and we’ll get people who never otherwise would have had the chance going to university.”
The tight fiscal environment prevented him from promising more money for preparatory or transition courses.
But he said many universities already were doing good work in that area and he promised to give it priority in the coming year.
“We can grow and access equity without losing a strong focus on excellence,” Senator Evans said.
“These are not contradictory or mutually-exclusive goals.”
The Government released the independent base funding review in December. It will respond in the next couple of months.
Source: AAP March 07, 2012