Friday, 23 May 2014

Choice and competition in higher education?

In Importing US model will be a ‘recipe for disaster’, Thomas Adams makes a compelling case for not following the US. Some nice quotes:
[A]ny notion that Australian universities can mimic the US model of endowment funding is particularly absurd. The largest endowments at Australian universities are about $1.2 billion. That number would place schools like Monash, the University of Melbourne, and ANU on par with Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, the 71st highest endowment in the US. All are excellent universities that attract bright students and have brilliant faculty.
The problem is, while a school like Monash has 55,000 students, Lehigh has 7000. This means the per student endowment, the number that really matters when it comes undergraduate education and faculty research, is roughly eight times higher at Lehigh than at Monash.
What should be done? Adams writes:
Australia is already doing quite well in world university rankings at the per capita level and the way to improve what is already a world-class university system is not to adopt an American ­approach but to do the opposite. Subsidise tuition so students do not have to go into debt to follow their dreams. Expand staff so that students can develop closer relationships with their professors. Fund research so that Australian faculty can continue to make groundbreaking contributions across all fields of inquiry. These are the proven ways to build an equitable higher education system that would be the envy of the world. 
And to conclude,
Buzzwords like choice and competition only serve to mask the fact that Abbott and Pyne’s plan will send Australia down a one-way street towards a US system that is broken and increasingly unfixable.


  1. Yes, maybe education should be looked on as a common good. And maybe we should fund it with a more progressive income tax regime.

    The 1950's and 60's were an era with very high top marginal income tax rates, and yet economies grew strongly. And although we are much richer now than we were then, we act as though we are much poorer.

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