So the University of Western Sydney (UWS) has entered a death spiral. In a demand driven system, its current approach to education means falling revenue. Or put another way, the students are choosing its competitors. So it is doing the obvious, and slashing courses, including economics. Which will make it less attractive to students, etc. An article from the Australian higher education section is here.
The problem for UWS is increasing competition. Other universities, that students prefer, are accepting more students and students are voting with their feet. Seeing the UWS offerings, students are going elsewhere. This is the very nature of competition, and UWS is losing.
We know other universities in Sydney have dropped their cut-offs dramatically to take more students and will undoubtedly continue to do so.
This is good for the students. They get to go to Universities they prefer. It is bad for UWS – but what does it expect? Did it really think that students would choose it over U.Syd, UNSW, UTS or Macquarie U? And if so, why? It offers the same type of courses taught the same way but has less prestige and is viewed by students as being lower quality.
The University leadership at UWS should ask itself one simple set of questions:
- In the last five years, how has UWS changed its educational offerings to differentiate itself significantly from its competitors? How has it invested to make those differences real and to stake itself a viable and competitive place in the educational market place? How has it differentiated to create a viable business model for its future?
I suspect the answer is simple. They haven’t. If they have, then the results show that the attempts by senior management have failed. If UWS was an equivalent private firm (or indeed a corporatised GBE) the leadership team would now be out looking for new jobs instead of adopting knee jerk reactions that will almost certainly make matters worse.
So – the bottom line?
First, the cuts at UWS are an indictment of the failure of our university leaders to understand the competitive international environment that Australian higher education faces.
Second, it is clear why economics is one of the first areas to go. Clearly none of the senior UWS administration has training in this area. If they did – they wouldn’t be in this mess!