Why do public universities use feeder colleges?

Many public universities have close relationships with feeder colleges – more politely known as providing ‘pathways’ to university. Some universities have set up their own, such as Monash College or UTS’s INSEARCH. But others collaborate with private providers such as Navitas. For example, Deakin has an arrangement with the Navitas subsidary the Melbourne Institute of Business and Technology, and Macquarie with the Sydney Institute of Business and Technology.

So why don’t public universities directly offer courses to these students? There would seem to be several reasons:

1) If they took the students directly, they would have to report that they sometimes take school leavers with weak Year 12 results. Whether or not the students improve a lot in their year at the feeder college, the back door entry method allows the course to have higher apparent admission standards.

2) They aren’t equipped to do remedial work – better to clearly identify the problematic students, and have another organisation teach them in different ways.

3) They are equipped to do remedial work, but can’t do it on Commonwealth-supported rates – hence putting them in the full-fee sector.

4) This is a way of by-passing the prohibition on full-fee undergraduates, and so is profitable for the universities – whether they offer the courses themselves or pick up royalties from a private provider.

5) The private providers have different recruitment networks, and so for the international students at least outsourcing to Navitas means that the public uni will ultimately have more students than it would through its own marketing.

Possibilities (3) and (4) are most interesting from a policy perspective. With fees capped in public universities but uncapped in other institutions, it creates an incentive to shift enrolments to other institutions. In a way, it is surprising that we haven’t seen more of this kind of activity. Perhaps since the Melbourne University Private controversy the public unis have wanted to fly as far below the political radar as they can in trying to get around regulatory restrictions. Or maybe there is only a profitable market among students whose results are too weak to get them a subsidised place

7 Responses to “Why do public universities use feeder colleges?

  • 1
    conrad
    July 1st, 2011 16:37

    “In a way, it is surprising that we haven’t seen more of this kind of activity.”
    .
    The obvious reason where I work and any others with a TAFE section is that they use their own TAFE for this purpose.

  • 2
    fxh
    July 1st, 2011 19:50

    Not only what conrad said but for many years now UNIs with a TAFE component have essentially forced students to enter through their TAFE – thus adding years and $$ and filtering.

  • 3
    Amy Baker
    July 1st, 2011 20:39

    Hi Andrew

    I’d be interested in speaking with you more about this; I am a freelance journalist and currently researching public/private partnerships in academic pathways for The Guardian Weekly. Could you get in touch?

  • 4
    conrad
    July 2nd, 2011 18:22

    “but for many years now UNIs with a TAFE component have essentially forced students to enter through their TAFE”
    .
    I doubt that’s true across the board fxh. It isn’t true where I work — TAFE is mainly used for alternative entry students that need a bit of help before they start, such as for students that didn’t get a good ENTER score (e.g., less than 70), students that haven’t studied for a decade, students with poor English etc. . In addition, if I’m to believe the stats done by people so hopelessly incompetent that they can’t calculate and probably don’t know what a standard deviation is, these students, at least in terms of completition rates (which are the only stats I’ve seen), do just as well as the direct entry students. So this is a good, not a bad thing. The problem now is that with the new changes, many universities have a very strong incentive to bottom-fish students, and many already do (e.g., ACU lets essentially anyone at all in; the outer-suburbs campus where I work does also) and the stats I’ve seen show that these students really do perform poorly.

  • 5
    Sinclair Davidson
    July 3rd, 2011 14:38

    for many years now UNIs with a TAFE component have essentially forced students to enter through their TAFE – thus adding years and $$ and filtering.

    Not true at the uni I work at either. Basically it operates as alternate entry. The other benefit is used to have was that TAFE fees were cheaper than HECS fees and students could get an overall cheaper education after converting to the HE sector.

  • 6
    Peter Ryan
    July 10th, 2011 08:25

    Andrew – when you say “with fees capped in public universities but uncapped in other institutions” I think it could be more accurately put: “with undergraduate fees for domestic students not in restricted access programs capped in public universities….” – universities can charge what they like to international students and postgraduate domestic students – and do!

  • 7
    Andrew Norton
    July 10th, 2011 08:33

    Peter – Indeed! They profess to be terribly worried about access, while charging exorbitant fees to people from developing countries.