It is hard to imagine any Australian education minister giving a speech like this one by British Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills Vince Cable. Particularly for a Liberal Democrat, he sends a remarkable number of higher education sacred cows – some of the sector, some of government – to the slaughterhouse:
Sacred cow number 1: Universties should get more public funding
no one should be under any illusion that there will be any other than deep cuts in government spending on universities.
Sacred cow number 2: Students should pay less
they almost certainly will have to pay more
Sacred cow number 3: We should encourage more people to go to university
I’m an economist so I think about the margin, as well as the average. The fact is that we don’t know much about the marginal costs and benefits of HE participation. ….
And there could be a law of diminishing returns in pushing more and more students through university.
Sacred cow number 4: Government should set targets for higher education participation
The Labour Government set an ambition for 50% participation. … An input measure that tells you nothing about the quality and relevance of achievement or impact is not that useful. … We should not be setting targets, or ceilings for that matter.
Sacred cow number 5: Public universities should get preferential treatment
..how does the system deliver better outcomes with less state funding overall? One approach is to allow the market to operate more freely.
What that means is a greater range of higher education providers. To make this work, we need to remove some big institutional barriers, like the boundaries we erect around the institutions which can, and can’t, receive public funds. This would bring more and better choice for students, and better value for money through new and potentially lower cost approaches to teaching.
Sacred cow number 6: The higher ed industry should not be disaggregated
Good quality higher education can be delivered by institutions that don’t themselves award the qualifications that their students take. Indeed I can see real benefits for institutions that focus on providing excellent teaching, in linking themselves to established brands with global brands with global recognition when it comes to awarding degrees.
Sacred cow number 7: Research is a necessary part of university education
what we can’t afford is a system in which everybody tries to do everything – badly and at high cost. Research funding is already highly selective, and that is right. It will become more so. But it should be no less prestigious to achieve world-class excellence or elite status in undergraduate teaching, or technical education.
Sacred cow number 8: Elitism is bad
in a more competitive and specialised environment, elite institutions and departments will emerge. Indeed, it should be a national objective to ensure that we retain and expand our representation in the global elite alongside top US institutions.
Sacred cow number 9: No university should be allowed to fail
it must also be a system with less protection for inefficient institutions. Government’s concern must be for the students – not for any particular institution which has failed to manage its costs.
And with threats of more:
The changes I have set out here are quite modest and incremental. I am aware that there are other more radical options.
What a pity I have to vote for one of the candidates for Melbourne and not this guy.