So, we are planning to have 10 universities in the global top 100 by 2025. While at the same time as we decrease university funding, we are to have more successful research intensive universities on a global basis? And by the way, let’s not actually focus our efforts on a few (say 8 or 10) research intensive universities allowing the remainder to focus on high quality teaching. Let’s maintain our current one-size-fits-all approach and expect mediocre education policy to create great universities.
The government’s ‘white paper’ objective to have ’10 in the global top 100 by 2025′ is, understandably, creating some interest, at least in the university sector. A summary of the debate is here. Andrew Norton correctly notes:
There doesn’t seem to be any intellectual or policy basis to this target.
Yes! Why 10? Which rankings? Why focus on rankings that emphasise research? Is there any underlying commitment to this goal reflected in government policy? Is it simply nice-sounding waffle?
There have been some attempts to measure the amount of funding needed to reach the ’10 by 2025′ goal.
Ross Milbourne, vice-chancellor at the University of Technology, Sydney, and an economist, has estimated that lifting up the next five would require an extra $10 billion a year in research funding.
I haven’t seen Ross’ work but it almost certainly ignores strategic effects. In particular, the ’10 by 2025′ goal is signing us up to a silly rat race. Other countries have also signed up to this rat race. Remember, there can only be 100 universities in the global top 100. So the issue is not just our universities going up the rankings, but who do we push out?
The top 100 is currently dominated by US universities so is the US government and higher education system going to just let their universities ‘drop out’ to let us in?
And what about our Asian neighbours? The top-ranked Chinese universities come in between 151-200. Do we really think that the (totalitarian) government in China is going to let this matter of national pride continue? How many Chinese Universities will be funded to be in the top 100 by 2025? Is it 10? 20? And who will they push out?
And what about other Asian neighbours who are investing rapidly in their higher education system? Excluding Japan (and Israel), there are NO top 100 Asian Universities today. Even if there is only 5 to 10 new entries in the top 100 from Taiwan, Korea, etc, that means 5-10 others are forced out. There can only be 100 universities in that top 100.
The ’10 by 2025′ goal is not just unfunded ‘pie in the sky’. It is silly, destructive policy. Our aim should be to have the best possible university system providing a diverse range of educational experiences to students within Australia and across the Asia-Pacific region. Education is not a rat race, but that is what the government wants us to sign on to.