What’s going on with science applications #2?

Earlier in the year, I reported evidence that contrary to my earlier expectations demand for science courses, for which the student contribution rate has been cut by by more than $3,000 a year, was going up significantly.

The national final applications data shows that science did indeed observe a surge in applications, up 17% in a market that was up 5% overall. The market share gain was 0.72%, within the historical pattern of annual movements of more than +/- 1% market share being rare, but still a big change (some previous U of M professional courses now requiring a science course first explains some, but not all, the increase).

So did the price decrease cause this market share shift? There is some other evidence in the applications data consistent with this interpretation. Past research suggests that people have clusters of aptitudes, skills and interests. On this theory we would expect declining market share in disciplines that draw on similar clusters to science. This is apparent in agriculture (-.49%) and health (-.34%). It is not apparent in engineering (+.32%) or IT (+.11%).

There is however one particularly curious aspect to the applications data. Continue reading “What’s going on with science applications #2?”

Correction about John Quiggin

Generally, the time to deal with errors in comments is while the thread is still active. However, last August one of the regular commenters made a point about John Quiggin saying that ‘true to form the professor opposed every major economic reform in the 80’s and 90’s and showed up to give evidence against Workchoices and workplace reform at a hearing appearing “ not as an economist”…’.

Recently, this was repeated in the comments thread of another blog, with an unflattering conclusion drawn from it, prompting Professor Quiggin to want a correction at the source (there is some dispute about where it started, but the earliest Google link is to this blog).

For the record, Professor Quiggin did not appear at a WorkChoices hearing, but instead signed a petition on the subject which referred to the expertise of the signatories, including in economics.

Update: JC has asked me to note that he made the comment in question without first checking its accuracy. He retracts it and apologises for the mistake. As he says, ‘it’s important that criticisms are based on firm ground.’

Hayek vs Friedman on school choice

Commenter Robert suggests, regarding my post suggesting Milton Friedman influenced views in favour of competitive curricula on government not delivering school education, that

It could just be that better read classical liberals tend to favour freedom in education (and perhaps freedom in other areas) and it’s not Friedman specific. Is it worth testing whether the effect from Friedman is greater than having read other liberal thinkers?

I’m sorry to report it, as I like and admire Friedman rather than just admire Hayek, but a test comparing Friedman readers and Hayek readers (Hayek being the second most popular classical liberal writer among classical liberals, after Friedman) suggests that Robert is right. Hayek readers are slightly more likely to give the ‘correct’ classical liberal responses to questions on school curriculum setting and funding.

image0021 Continue reading “Hayek vs Friedman on school choice”

What’s going on with science applications?

Back in October, early Victorian university applications suggested that demand for science was well down, despite the government cutting the cost of science courses. But reports in today’s media say that science applications finished 19% up on last year. With overall applications up only 6%, that endangers my prediction that a price change would have little effect. The history of applications data is that it is rare for a discipline to gain or lose more than 1% of market share in a year.

The complicating factor this year is that several University of Melbourne undergraduate courses that draw on science-related interests and aptitudes – computer science, information systems, dental science and medicine – were offered for the last time in 2008, and we would expect that people aiming for those professions would now enrol in the new science or biomedicine undergraduate courses. And both show significant increases in applicants.

My other prediction of little supply-side response is also complicated by changes at the U of M, but without Melbourne offers are up 4% on last year. That is consistent with normal year-to-year movement.

ENTER scores are stable at Monash and Melbourne, the two big Victorian players in undergraduate science. Monash’s clearly-in ENTER was up 0.2 to 75.2, and Melbourne’s was stable on 85. So added demand is not doing much to push up the ‘price’ in ENTER scores of science courses.

I think my prediction that final science commencing enrolments will fluctuate within the normal range is looking ok. But if we see a similar pattern of increasing demand for science in other states, which do not have the U of M complication, then maybe the cut in price did affect demand.

How much will Bradley vouchers be worth?

In an article I wrote for the Higher Education Supplement last week, I estimated that the per student funding increase from the Bradley review could be as low as 1-2% for most disciplines. I now think that this is an underestimate.

The difficulty is that though prices for student places are a critical element of a voucher scheme, the Bradley report doesn’t recommend either actual prices or a price-setting mechanism. The only specific proposal on prices is that teaching and nursing courses get the 25% increase in student contributions they missed out under the Nelson reforms in 2005.

So any estimates of prices rely on inference and assumptions. The committee recommends a 10% increase in teaching and learning funding, but also two clawbacks on teaching and learning funding. 4% of teaching and learning funding would go to social inclusion programs, and another 2.5% to a ‘performance’ fund that could include the results of teaching surveys, graduate outcomes etc. Because these clawbacks would be distributed based on criteria either than student enrolments, I take the view that this funding should not be counted towards voucher values.
Continue reading “How much will Bradley vouchers be worth?”

The male graduate shortage

In July, I noted the curious absence of men in the study of fertility. I’d become interested in this issue because of the debate over whether HECS was having a negative effect on rates of childbirth among university-educated women. I concluded that the main cause of low birthrates in this group was the absence of husbands. One of my suggestions, due to the fact that female graduates significantly outnumber male graduates, was that:

University educated women being more willing to marry men without degrees would make a difference…

An article in yesterday’s Australian, based on a study I unfortunately haven’t yet been able to obtain, suggests that this was not good advice.

WOMEN with tertiary educations who choose as a partner men who have not finished high school are 10 times more likely to separate or get divorced than women whose education is less than or equal to their partner’s.

Continue reading “The male graduate shortage”

My trip to Planet Irf

At his blog Planet Irf, Irfan Yusuf claims that I – along with Michael Duffy, who was interviewing me – am guilty of inconsistency. As readers may have gathered, I do not like inconsistency. Irfan says:

During the interview, Norton and Duffy discussed the relationship between racism and immigration. They both seemed to agree that opposition to immigration during the latter half of the twentieth century in Australia wasn’t necessarily to do with racism but was more an issue of the fear among Australian workers of migrants taking jobs….

Later in the conversation, Norton Duffy state that immigration increased under the Howard government. This, they alleged, meant that the Howard government (and presumably John Howard) were therefore not racist.

So if you support the pursuit of policies that lead to an increase in immigration, you simply cannot be racist. But if you oppose immigration, you aren’t necessarily racist. Go figure.

It seems fairly simple to me: the Howard government and the Australian people are accused of White Australia style racism. But support for an immigration policy that includes record numbers of people with dark skins and exotic beliefs is inconsistent with this interpretation of the last decade. A strong racist would always oppose a policy that let in so many people from cultures they did not like. Because there are few strong racists, migration opinion is driven by other factors.

Support for the migration policy is, however, consistent with lower-level prejudices. Social distance surveys show that letting people into the country is one thing, but letting them into your life another. There can be large attitudinal gaps between migration and marriage. So while I can’t recall what I said to Duffy in that interview, I very much doubt that I claimed that ‘if you support the pursuit of policies that lead to an increase in immigration, you simply cannot be racist.’

After all, I was being interviewed about an article that showed why that was not the case.

Raffles College and ‘central management and control’

In a blog post earlier this month, and in a subsequent Higher Education Supplement version of the post, I expressed doubt as to whether Raffles College of Design and Commerce, formerly known as KvB Institute of Technology, had current ‘central management and control’ in Australia. This was due to it now being owned by the Singapore-based Raffles Education Corporation. If it did not have this central management and control, amendments currently before the Parliament could lead to its students losing access to the FEE-HELP loan scheme.

The Higher Education Supplement and I have now received a letter from Professor Ron Newman, CEO and Chair of Raffles College of Design and Commerce, stating that it meets the requirements for FEE-HELP approval and therefore that they will be compliant with the new legal requirements.

Newman’s letter states that the members of the College’s Council all live in Australia, all but one of the eight members of the academic board live in Australia, three of the four company directors live in Australia, and it has a registered office in Sydney.

The issue here is what constitutes central management and control, but I agree that this sounds as close as is possible to central management and control being in Australia as is possible with 100% foreign ownership.

I’d note too that neither my post nor my article were intended to be criticisms of Raffles; only of the misguided policies of the former government that the current government was legislating to enforce.