Rather unusually for a government agency run by career public servants, the ALTC is offering a feisty response on its website:
The Federal Government will force the Australian Learning and Teaching Council to cease operations at the end of 2011 leaving a gaping hole in the sector.
CEO, Dr Carol Nicoll responded to the Prime Minister’s announcement made earlier today.
“The ALTC represents the Australian Government’s commitment to enhancing the quality of learning and teaching in higher education through means other than regulation,” she said.
“Obviously we are deeply disappointed that the Government’s stated commitment to improving the student learning experience for Australian students is not matched by continuing funding.” …
“The Government has taken the easy option of abolishing the ALTC. The savings to the government will be less than $22 million per annum but the damage to the higher education sector and student outcomes will be far reaching,” he [ALTC chair John Hay] said.
I have some sympathy for this view. With it’s hard to quantify what benefit the ALTC had, it was part of the slow professionalisation of higher education teaching, in institutions where both the culture and the financial incentives (at least until the arrival of international students) had favoured research.
If $22 million needs to be saved it could be done with no loss to public policy purposes by improving the HELP loan scheme or ending the excessive subsidies to science students (both of which would save much more than $22 million).
Abolishing the Capital Development Pool – a $75 million a year fund for smallish ad hoc infrastructure projects – was like cutting the ALTC’s funding chosen because it could be done by ministerial decision alone, and not because it was a well thought out prioritising of funding.
However given where overall policy is going I do not oppose this decision. When the demand-driven funding system comes capital needs to be incorporated into prices. Far more than it has been to date, the government will need to be a neutral player in the higher education market, rather than playing favourites through special handouts to particular unis.