Transformational sector-wide change would occur if all of the recommendations announced in the Review of the Demand Driven Funding System Report on the weekend were adopted.
Certainly, students would have far more choice and much better information to help them choose.
And Australian higher education would greatly strengthen its embrace of flexibility, innovation, efficiency and teaching quality.
This report recommends abandoning the targets for 40 per cent bachelor degree or higher attainment for 25–34 year olds by 2025 and for a 20 per cent low socio-economic status student enrolment share by 2020.
I would agree that dropping the arbitrary participation targets of the demand-driven system makes great sense. The highly responsive market created as a result of the reforms would achieve the participation levels we all want but without unnecessary government regulation.
I am also pleased it has recognised the high dropout rates of students with ATARs below 50. The report suggests universities should grant admission to under-prepared students only to the extent that they can support them appropriately throughout their studies.
Similarly, I’m encouraged that the report’s authors, David Kemp and Andrew Norton, have recognised the key to success at university is academic preparation before students enter, and that pathway programs therefore need much more attention.
There is absolutely no benefit in setting up poorly-prepared students to fail academically.
But there are very serious financial challenges ahead if this is to be paid for in its entirety. Under these report recomendations, the government would pay universities less per student and thus students would have to pay more and it would also need to collect the growing HECS/HELP debt more effectively.
These are important findings that we should all take time to absorb and analyse.