When you can’t get enough define out the opposition

The argument from the Group of 8 (Go8) universities that research funding should only go to areas within universities that have been rated at world class or better in Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is a simplistic and self-serving argument to protect its members from competition.

Under the guise of targeting funding, the Go8 proposal directly targets the opposition. Ironically with the Go8 proposal, research which is not of world standard would still take place as long as it is nestled within areas where a university has an overarching high ERA rating. It would just prevent world class research developing in other, mostly younger, universities in areas in which they currently do not have a high ERA rating. This is because the ERA rating is the retrospective reflection of all the research in a field in that university: the good and not so good.

Research is a broad based investment to strengthen capability for research and innovation so it permeates across Australia. It is not an academic Olympics to find the best few researchers only, and ignore the larger group with research capacity or potential for excellence.

Australia needs to develop people and ideas for 2025 and beyond. To bind ourselves to what we were good at in 2005 (the starting date for the ERA exercise) would sell everyone short.

We need to stimulate better use of research by industry and other end users. This will not be done by using an ERA measurement of fundamental research that ignores whether any of it is ever used.

The change in ERA Ratings between the 2010 assessment and the 2012 demonstrates the developing strength of universities. We need to encourage this, not prevent it.

The reality is that universities target their efforts at what they are currently good at and the few new areas in which they want to grow. All universities need and deserve that support for growth. Government funding and the recognition systems ensure this.

The majority of research funding is allocated competitively through the Australian Research Council and the National Health and Medical Research Council. Do we ban researchers who are not surrounded by others of similar esteem from grant applications? It would increase success rates for those remaining eligible. Research block grants are performance driven.

We need to improve the system to underpin university research supporting both fundamental research and that supporting industry and other end user needs. That is, we look to the future, not shackle ourselves to the past. For constructive options to do this, see the IRU submission here.

For a Group that loudly proclaims its faith in university autonomy, the Go8 could show some belief in its fellow universities’ decisions and not beg for further Government regulation. What are they afraid of?

 

END

For comment contact IRU Chair, Professor John Dewar M: 0418980509/0403222528

Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements: IRU Submission

Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements: IRU submission The terms of reference for the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements set out a twofold focus.

The first is to consider the overall system architecture of Government support for research and its use. The overall structure has not been reconsidered since the creation of the research block grants in 2001 although the incremental changes to elements of the system have significantly altered its balance.

The second is to ensure the structure encourages the take up of research by end users, particularly those able to use research for commercial ends. Read more in the attached PDF below.

 

The impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy tendering processes by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: IRU Submission

We appreciate the opportunity to submit to the Senate References Committee on Finance and Public Administration on the impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy tendering processes by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

The IRU submission targets the impact of the inclusion of higher education Indigenous programmes in the IAS, with the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) subject to the tendering process. The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) is a network of six research intensive, progressive universities, established in the outer urban areas of Australia’s capitals and in major provincial cities to stimulate economic, social and personal advancement. Our locations bring universities, with comprehensive activities across teaching and research, to areas where higher education participation and attainment is low, and where the university’s research and creation of graduates can strengthen the social and economic prosperity of the region.

The members of the IRU have a long-standing commitment to becoming universities of choice for Indigenous students and staff. Read the submission in full below.

Principles of the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 and related matters: IRU Submission

The need for further change in higher education is clear.

Over the past six years Governments of both sides have endorsed the need for all interested Australians to access higher education to meet their needs.

The challenge remains to design the funding and charges regime that ensures universities and other higher education providers can deliver the quality of education outcomes required now and into the future, at a viable level of Government investment.

The Coalition Government’s solution is to reduce the rates of Government funding spreading its support across students at all higher education providers, with universities and other providers raising the additional revenue required through fees. The Government’s package, expressed in the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 (the Bill), continues to generate considerable opposition targeted at its combination of a 20% cut to funding rate and unconstrained fee deregulation.

Read more in the attached PDF below.

The impact on service quality, efficiency and sustainability of recent Commonwealth Indigenous Advancement Strategy tendering processes by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet: IRU Submission

The IRU submission targets the impact of the inclusion of higher education Indigenous programmes in the IAS, with the Indigenous Tutorial Assistance Scheme (ITAS) subject to the tendering process.

The members of the IRU have a long-standing commitment to becoming universities of choice for Indigenous students and staff.

• IRU members educate 19% of Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders students.

• 2.1% of all our students are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders against a national parity target of 2.3% and overall sector achievement of 1.4%.

• 1.1% of IRU completions are by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders against overall sector achievement of 0.8%.

• We employ 17% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders staff working in Australian universities.

Read more…

Whence: how do we solve the trilemma?

The farce continues.  Universities cannot budget for 2016 and beyond with the level of base government investment and student payments essentially unknowable.

Since April 2013 universities have been subject to two budget driven changes neither of which has been implemented.  The Labor efficiency dividend remains on the Senate bill list; the Pyne reforms have been rejected twice.

We now need an effective process to solve the trilemma:

  1. universities should have the resources needed to provide effective, high quality, future focused education that meets the needs of all students;
  2. higher education should be affordable, supported by HELP debts repayable across a working life;
  3. Government should invest in students’ higher education, consistent with Government fiscal capacity, to support all Australians develop their capability.

Bring the three together and we will have an Australian higher education system the world will envy. Let them remain apart and university education will wither.

To achieve this requires constructive discussion aimed at resolving the resourcing challenge sensibly, with cross parliament support.  The first step is to resolve the high level outcomes needed, followed by exploration of options, based on analysis, with a willingness of all parties to be constructive.

Fee flexibility must be part of the discussion.  Limiting access to university should not.  It is sad that the Labor party could question a major achievement of the Rudd-Gillard Government.

It is clear that the unfettered deregulation of student fees is too open a system to gain broad support.  In combination with HELP it risks providers and students exploiting the loan subsidy to over-invest in education.

The options floated over the past year to moderate deregulation now need serious analysis as part of an open discussion to find the best way to the future.  IRU has listed the Phillips-Chapman option as worthwhile detailed work.  It would means test universities access to Government subsidy based on the level of fees charged. There are other ideas to explore.

The process will not finish quickly.  Much of the discussion of the past year has been too vituperative to contribute usefully.  Hence the Government should confirm the target for changes to begin as now 2017.

END

For comment contact

IRU Chair, Professor John Dewar, M: 0418 980 509

IRU Executive Director, Conor King M: 0434 601 691

 

Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014: IRU Submission

The need for further change in higher education is clear.

Over the past six years Governments of both sides have endorsed the need for all interested Australians to access higher education to meet their needs.

The challenge remains to design the funding and charges regime that ensures universities and other higher education providers can deliver the quality of education outcomes required now and into the future, at a viable level of Government investment.

The Coalition Government’s solution is to reduce the rates of Government funding spreading its support across students at all higher education providers, with universities and other providers raising the additional revenue required through fees. The Government’s package, expressed in the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 (the Bill), continues to generate considerable opposition targeted at its combination of a 20% cut to funding rate and unconstrained fee deregulation.

Read more in the attached PDF below.

Will Government fund higher education to the standard required?

The IRU argues that the approach of Governments of both sides has not and will not deliver the significant increase in Government funding sufficient to teach students to the standard required. Governments have not taken past opportunities to increase funding in this way, despite recommendations from the Bradley report and the Lomax-Smith report about the relative funding between disciplines and the clear areas of underfunding.

Principles of the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 and related matters: IRU Submission

The need for further change in higher education is clear.

Over the past six years Governments of both sides have endorsed the need for all interested Australians to access higher education to meet their needs.

The challenge remains to design the funding and charges regime that ensures universities and other higher education providers can deliver the quality of education outcomes required now and into the future, at a viable level of Government investment.

Support reform bill, now without funding cut: IRU Submission

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) call on the Senate to pass the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 following the Government’s decision to focus on the important reforms to university funding and student charges it has proposed, without the initial upfront reduction in Government funding.

We need the new approach the Bill offers.

At heart, the role of universities is to educate and to develop knowledge. To do this well universities need more resources.