IRU Webinar – Job-Ready Graduates: impacts on participation and equity

Join us for this hour-long webinar to examine the initial effects of the JRG policy package on higher education participation and equity.

The webinar aims to improve our understanding of how the JRG reforms have affected students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the ways IRU members are adapting to support students, and where policy reform can be targeted to meet equity goals.

Tuesday 21 June, 3pm AEST

Register here.

Australian universities are now in their second year of implementing the 2020 Job-Ready Graduates (JRG) package, with many students returning to campus for the first time after extended Covid-19 lockdowns. IRU members have strong commitment to increasing university participation as educators of a disproportionately high number of low SES, regional and Indigenous students.

Speakers:

Professor Maree Dinan-Thompson is Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Education) at James Cook University. Over a period of more than 20 years at James Cook University, Maree has made an outstanding contribution to the delivery of innovative, contemporary and authentic curriculum, assessment and course design which has drawn both her students and colleagues into a heightened level of engagement and transformation in teaching and learning. Professor Dinan-Thompson is also Chair of the IRU DVCs Academic committee.

Professor Andrew Harvey is Director of the Pathways in Place program at Griffith University and has published widely in areas of equity, diversity, and higher education policy, including student equity, admissions, retention, and globalisation.

Professor Jessica Vanderlelie is the inaugural Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Students) at La Trobe University, leading the university to develop and implement a sustainable, and integrated strategy to improve the student experience and outcomes. A key focus of this work is to facilitate successful student transition and prepare graduates for the changing world of work.

Job-Ready Graduates Package: Key changes affecting equity group participation

Concerns about the funding changes contained in the JRG package and their implications for equity students are well known, including:

The JRG package also included a range of additional accountability measures that are administratively burdensome and socially regressive, but these have received far less attention (see: IRU JRG Briefing The needless burden of new university accountability measures). Students who fail more than 50% of units in their first year now risk losing access to Commonwealth support. Rather than letting universities work with their students less confident of their places in higher education – a group far more likely to be from disadvantaged, regional or Indigenous backgrounds – this hard rule has enforced a punitive approach to the complex set of individual circumstances faced by students.

But the impact of the JRG package on participation and equity cannot be viewed entirely negatively. The pre-JRG system contained severe constraints following the Government’s decision to cap university Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding at its 2017 level. The capped CGS meant universities could not maintain their level of higher education provision without reducing investment per student to levels potentially below what is needed for quality student learning. The implications for participation and equity were clear, particularly with the anticipated increase in participation from the “Costello baby boom” (see: IRU JRG Briefing Will the growth places be enough?).

Students most likely to miss out on university education under the pre-JRG system were to be those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and in regions where education provision was more costly. Therefore, the JRG package also offered some solutions and certainty for participation and equity by:

  • Putting a long-term floor under CGS, with regular inflation-linked increases;
  • Improved flexibility to use funds as best suits student and university need across discipline and level of qualification;
  • Expanding university places to cover some, but not all, growth in demand from population growth and greater need for higher education; and
  • Specific support for regional students, aimed at altering the long-standing low take-up of university education by people from regional areas and in universities based in those regions.

After two years of severe interruption and change due to Covid-19, this webinar provides a first opportunity to examine the initial effects of the JRG package on higher education participation and equity.

Register for the webinar here.