Some Vice-Chancellors will be relieved that tertiary education minister has issued a media release talking up the promised demand-driven funding system. It is an obvious savings measure for a cash-strapped government, with no parliamentary approval required for delay and few punters having any idea what it is.
Data released by Evans’ office (though not in the link above) can be compared to funding agreement data to see university ‘over-enrolment’ levels. Under a phase-in to the demand-driven system, universities can receive government tuition funding up to 10% more than their agreed amount for 2010 and 2011 (up from 5% under the previous government). For students enrolled above that, they get the student contribution amount but not any direct Commonwealth tuition subsidy.
Though we can’t directly extrapolate from student numbers to $ amounts, 23 universities have hit 10% undergraduate over-enrolment, and 7 have hit 20% undergraduate over-enrolment. Australian Catholic University is a staggering 41% over-enrolled. Across the whole system, over-enrolment is at 13%.*
While ACU is the most over-enrolled in percentage terms, Western Sydney is the most over-enrolled in EFTSL terms, with more than 4,000 more students than it originally agreed to take for 2011. Not surprisingly perhaps, they have been advertising heavily for more staff.
This pattern of over-enrolment makes it hard to predict what will happen in a demand-driven system. We might have expected Group of Eight universities to hold back student numbers to maximise prestige, but collectively they are only slightly less over-enrolled (11%) than the system average. UNSW is the second most over-enrolled in absolute terms.
And we might have thought that the former College of Advanced Education universities, which still have the weakest brands, were vulnerable to poaching from the tiers above, such as former tech colleges and universities from the 1960s and 1970s. But half the top ten over-enrollers in percentage terms are from this group.
These numbers also have implications for the funding review. While of course all universities are calling for more money, it requires complex arguments about average compared to marginal cost to explain away these figures. Otherwise it appears that universities are falling over themselves to enrol additional students at funding rates they claim are too low. If I was sitting in the minister’s office, I would call their bluff and give them nothing more than what they get already.
* I have had to use 2010 target enrolment figures for 3 universities, but this is unlikely to have a major effect.