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educational reform « Previous | |Next »
August 21, 2003

An article in the Australian Financial Review (subscription required, 18 08 03, p 60) indicates that using the market to reform universities is having the desired effect. Gone are the days when the liberal university was primarily concerned with the public good, was taxpayer funded, entrance is based on academic achievement and was free from the usual market pressures. That was what the social democratic university once was in the 1970s.

Today, the elite universities with a brand name (Sydney, Melbourne, NSW, Queensland, Western Australia and Monash) are corporations.They see themselves as big business and as a part of corporate Australia.

Though their CEO's still talk in terms of embracing the market (ie., being business-like) in order to keep the traditional values of scholarship and research alive and well, they do not see themselves as public educational institutions. They are entrepreneurial driven, and talk in terms of business booming and doubling in size in a growing market. They are bottom-line driven in the new commercial environment, they draw full-fee business and commercial research funding and increasingly rely on private income.

They derive their income from research companies or consultancies, fee paying students and service based ventures. Hence they are businesses operating under competition laws and so will increasingly come under the Trade Practices Act.

What has happened to the non elite ones? Some, such as Wollongong University, Queensland University of Technology and Curtin University of Technology, have successfully cultivated a niche markets through good strategic management. Finding a niche in the market is central to an a non-research intensive university.

The other smaller regional universities will struggle to survive given their weak opposition in the higher education market. They are primarily public institutions operating according to the academic goals of research and teaching, and they find it hard to enter the commercialisation race that relies significantly on research credentials and prestige.

The planned university shakeup by the Howard Government will widen the divide and entrench a multiered market.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:22 AM | | Comments (1)


Well we sure could use the TPA being applied to the Unis. Their accountability to students is very poor.

I don't know when you were last at a uni but I graduated with my 2nd undergraduate degree last year, from the University of Sydney.

I am nominally a lefty but the appalling state of Australian higher ed has convinced me that far-reaching market reforms are necessary. It would be nice to think that just throwing more money at the them could fix things but the problems are far too ingrained IMHO. And of course more Federal funding is very unlikely under either party.

I recommend Andrew Norton's book "The Unchained University" for an excellent argument in favour of reform.