Another interesting observation, as a former university employee, is the declining academic standards upon the increase of alien [sic – he means international, not interplanetary] students.
The claim that academic standards are in decline is always with us; only the cause varies (mass education, progressive education, managerialism, government funding cuts etc etc). But since academic standards are generally set internally by universities it is hard for outsiders to assess the credibilty of declinist claims.
My response to these allegations has been that while the absence of external standard-setting and scrutiny makes declining academic standards possible, proxy data hasn’t supported the declinist thesis. Employers are not, for example, showing their dissatisfaction by employing fewer graduates or giving them a lower premium for their degree (beyond the usual cyclical changes). And I have been observing for many years that pass rates are not showing any consistent upward trend.
However Baz’s comment prompted me to look at the latest data on ‘progress’ (ie pass) rates. The graph shows the percentage of units successfully completed by commencing domestic (blue line) and international (red line) students). It shows that the international student pass rate has since 2005 spiked up by 2.65 percentage points, while the domestic rate declined slightly.
On closer examination, this change seems to be driven by largish increases (4% or more) at UTS, James Cook, Southern Queensland, Sunshine Coast, Curtin and South Australia. ANU, Victoria, and CQU had 3-4% increases. Southern Queensland went from a very low pass rate in 2005 (69.13%) to a slightly above average pass rate in 2005 (85.76%). However of these only Sunshine Coast’s pass rate (91.6%) is way out of line with what what I would expect.
For some universities, increases to English language requirements may explain a rapid increase as more students arrive with one of the basic conditions of academic success. But any significant departure from historical patterns warrants further investigation.