Blaming the bureaucrats does not cut it.
Hmmmm. To quote Stephen back to himself, gosh, where did that come from.
Australian universities are tied up in government rules and regulations that prevent innovation. The most obvious one relates to revenue at the undergraduate level. An Australian university gets paid the same per-student fee for an undergraduate course regardless of quality. This results in mediocrity. To see this, think of a simple comparison. Suppose the government decided on the following. Having a car is important to Australian families, so the government will set the price of a car at $10,000. The government will pay $2000 of the price with the other $8000 paid by the buyer. The buyer can use an income contingent loan to pay for the car to avoid equity issues involved with upfront payment.
What would be the outcome of such a policy? Well, you can kiss goodbye any car that costs over $10,000 to make. There would be no innovation in the car industry (no point spending money to innovate if you cannot charge consumers more for a better product). There would be little differentiation (cheaper to produce a mass homogenous product). The policy would lead to Australian families having access to cheap, homogeneous and mediocre cars.
Would this be bad policy? Of course! But this policy pretty much describes the limitations placed on undergraduate business education in Australia. And if Stephen Matchett thinks this is good policy – well, sorry mate, you are wrong!
Could there be a better policy that allows more innovation but keeps equity? Yes! For a start the government could lift the cap on University charging. If Universities were able to charge fees that reflect the quality of their degrees then they would have the incentive and funding to enable innovation. The government could still provide each student with a subsidy equal to the current payment for a course (about $2000 per year for an undergraduate business course). HECS would be available, but Universities that offer a better quality educational experience would be able to charge an appropriate fee that reflects the higher cost of the higher quality degree.
Would competition between Universities work? It would take time and the government might need to phase in the change over time, to allow new products to be developed and Universities to focus on their preferred part of the higher education market. But overseas experience shows that competition would lead to a wide range of different tertiary education experiences with different fees. The US system – like it or not – shows that competition leads to innovation and variety. It provides students with choice.
Would there be equity issues? Possibly, but the government could help with this by offering (or requiring universities to offer) scholarships for students with high academic performance who come from poorer backgrounds. And the HECS scheme provides the opportunity for poorer students to defer payment until they begin to earn a return on their studies.
The current one-size-fits-all approach to University funding promotes homogeneity and mediocrity. It would not be acceptable in almost any other area of Australian life. So why does Stephen Matchett want to keep this mediocrity in higher education?
Are the bureaucrats to blame? Well it is their rules that hold our universities back. So the answer is, yes!