Uni equity policy misses the target

Earlier in the year I argued that the governments university equity policy focused on the lowest 25% of people by sociecononomic status was fundamentally flawed.

Using NAPLAN and Victorian Year 12 data I had found that the academic results of the lowest SES 25% (by occupation and postcode respectively) were little different from the second quartile. Consequently, the first quartile was too narrow a focus for policy.

An excellent new paper by University of Melbourne economist Mick Coelli, using higher education participation data from the census and the HILDA survey, puts this conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. Whichever way we look at SES: income, education, occupation or postcode the result is the same – the second quartile is very similar to and perhaps even worse off than the first quartile for their kids getting into university. Continue reading “Uni equity policy misses the target”

Money and the emotions

Most happiness research is based on questions which ask respondents about how happy they are or how satisfied they are with their lives in general. A number of papers over the years have explored the links between these overall ratings and people’s day-to-day emotional states and found that (at least in the survey period) there are only modest correlations between them.

The most recent paper, by Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton, using a massive 450,000 person US sample over 2008-09 (bad years economically in the US), again finds that the statistical relationship isn’t strong.

They used three measures of daily emotional well-being: positive affect (reports of happiness, enjoyment and frequent smiling), blue affect (reports of worry and sadness) and stress the day before the survey. The life satisfaction question asked respondents to rate their lives from 0, worst possible life, to 10, best possible life. None of the correlations between emotional well-being and life satisfaction were higher than .31 (0 would be no relationship, 1 would be a complete association). Continue reading “Money and the emotions”

Gillard disrespects higher education

Update 11.30am 14/9: ‘Tertiary education’ to be added to Chris Evans’ ministerial title. Who is responsible for postgraduate coursework remains unclear, to me at least.

Update 9.30pm 14/9: The Coalition gets it right, with a shadow minister for education, Christopher Pyne, and a shadow minister for universities and research, Senator Brett Mason. The government has now clarified what Chris Evans will be responsible for postgraduate coursework. He is off to a shambolic start.

University lobby groups aren’t happy that there is no longer a minister for education, the portfolio being split between the minister for schools, early childhood and youth (Peter Garrett), the minister for jobs, skills and workplace relations (Chris Evans) and the minister for innovation, industry and science (Kim Carr).

The disappearance of higher education is most striking. I thought Evans might be the minister, but on Saturday afternoon I could not confirm it from the published list of new ministers. Gillard clarified the matter on Insiders on Sunday morning.

The atmospherics of this are really bad. John Dawkins is the Great Satan of traditional knowledge-for-its-own sake academics, but his policy documents always had a nod to the humanities and there was no significant steering of the system away from generalist degrees. Whatever he thought about arts academics or academics in general, he respected their self-conception as being about more than the service of the economy or whatever other goals the government of the day had.

By contrast Gillard as minister did not even bother with lip service support of the arts. Continue reading “Gillard disrespects higher education”

LDP – promoting conservatism in the Senate

Over at Thoughts on Freedom, blogger Jim Fryar seems happy enough with the electoral progress of the libertarian Liberal Democratic Party.

But a story in today’s Sunday Age suggests that what I think is the LDP’s first electoral impact in Victoria is, well, not exactly striking a blow for freedom.

Their Senate preference deals, it seems, are helping bring back to life the political fossils in the DLP, with their candidate John Madigan set to win the last Victorian Senate spot. Even Madigan’s occupation – a blacksmith – seems out of another era. He’s an old-fashioned working class conservative Catholic, who wants the shops to shut at 12 on a Saturday and is ‘sentimental about Australia’s diminished manufacturing industry’ (ie presumably wants tariffs back). The ghost of BA Santamaria will haunt the Senate.

According to the Sunday Age Continue reading “LDP – promoting conservatism in the Senate”

Skills matching for recent graduates

Andrew Carr asks if I can compare the skills mismatch of international and local students. To re-cap, a study of former overseas student migrants in 2006 found that:

18 months after their arrival found the skills match for former overseas students at the following levels: accounting 35%, business/commerce 5%, education 31%, engineering 23%, IT 35%, law 50%, nursing 90%.

I can’t get a direct matching comparison but there are surveys relating to this issue.

The Graduate Destinations Survey (summary results are free), which surveys graduates about four months after completion, now has a question which asks about the link between the graduate’s qualification and their main paid job (it’s only asked of those in full-time work, so I will put in brackets the percentage still looking for full-time work). The answers combine those who answered either a ‘formal requirement’ or ‘important’: Continue reading “Skills matching for recent graduates”

Should the government change migration laws to suit universities?

Australia’s universities are in a bit of a panic. With international student applications down, and much bigger drops in the ‘feeder’ colleges, the next few years are looking particularly grim.

While issues such as the high dollar, student safety and more intense competition for even-more broke universities in the UK and US are affecting the international student market, changes to skilled migration rules are also causing grief.

Most university courses that were being used as backdoor routes to permanent migration are still on the skilled occupations list used by the immigration department (the vocational education sector has not been so lucky), but the number of visas available in this category has dropped significantly. The emphasis has shifted to employer-sponsored migrants. So international students now need to find an employer to support them, creating much more uncertainty.

Yesterday the Group of Eight lobby group joined other university groups in calling on the government to ‘fix’ the problems. Continue reading “Should the government change migration laws to suit universities?”

Australia’s still surprisingly secure workers

The ABS released their labour mobility survey yesterday, and as I predicted two years ago Labor’s legislated job security provisions, which took effect about five months into the survey, did not stop retrenchments going up.

3.7% of workers who were employed in the year to February 2010 were retrenched, compared to 1.8% under WorkChoices in the year to February 2008. Retrenchment levels have more to do with business conditions than legislation.

While the 2010 result confirms that as a general point, the longer term trends on this in the figure below are quite intriguing. As measured by people being retrenched, the common belief that job security is declining over time is not correct. 2010 was the first negative trend in nearly 20 years. Maybe the long boom has saved more employers from the difficult decision to let people go. Or maybe there are other things going on that make dismissal a less common form of labour market adjustment.

Graduates three years on

Graduate Careers Australia has released Beyond Graduation 2009, a follow-up survey three years on of graduates they first surveyed in 2006.

A few points of interest on topics of particular interest to me:

* The proportion of their sample who were overseas had doubled from 3.2% to 6.8%, which means that they will not be repaying their HELP debt. People with qualifications in ‘architecture and building’ are most likely to be overseas (12%).

* The graduates in non-graduate jobs generally don’t want to be there, though this is is more true of ‘sales workers’ than ‘clerical and administrative workers’. The second most frequent reason (‘to earn a living’ had a majority response for all occupations) for taking a clerical job was ‘to develop general skills’, but only 7% of sales worker respondents gave that reason. By contrast, 47% of sales workers say they took their job because it was the only one they were offered, compared to 23% of clerical workers. Continue reading “Graduates three years on”

How well-known are think-tanks?

I received a letter today from John Roskam, executive director of the Institute of Public Affairs, outlining the organisation’s recent successes (and it has indeed flourished under his leadership).

He included with the letter what I think is the first ever survey of think-tank name recognition. Though as John points out in the letter the rather generic name of the IPA may cause its numbers to be overstated a little (there are so many institutes around that I have trouble keeping track of them myself) I’m still impressed by the result.

Even the 21% for the Grattan Institute is pretty good, given that it is relatively new.

There was no question about my employer the Centre for Independent Studies, though in my experience people frequently get think-tanks confused. I regularly get people who are under the impression that I work for the IPA or even occasionally Gerard Henderson’s Sydney Institute.