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Bradley Review of Higher Education « Previous | |Next »
August 11, 2008

The Rudd Government has promised an education revolution but, as it is still not clear what this involves, the Government looks a bit tacky and hesitant. "Revolution" sounds over the top and what has been delivered on other issues so far is a quite different from what has been promised. The look is one of spin heavy and substance light:

LeakGillard.jpg Leak

What would an "education revolution" in the higher education sector look like? Greater deregulation? Removal of perverse funding incentives? One of the mechanisms to deliver university reform is the Bradley Review of Australian higher education. Its recently released discussion paper is about reforming higher education.It is charged with considering the many issues and challenges facing the Australian higher education sector and it will inform the preparation of the Government’s policy agenda for higher education through 2009 and 2010.

It is deliberately designed to generate discussion and ideas from the sector, with a clear focus on delivering a world class higher education system for Australia. This is important as this ambition contrasts with the idea of merely focusing on building one or two world class universities.

It is neo-liberal in its focus as it states that:

Our future national prosperity must be built in the competitive, knowledge-based global economy. Australia’s capacity for innovation and adaptability in industry and society will be a key determinant of our success. We will need to make the most of our ‘human capital’ – our people – by encouraging individuals to upgrade their skills and knowledge and by providing education and training opportunities for people from all backgrounds ..... While education is at the core of any national agenda for change, it is higher education with its twin functions of teaching and research which will make a distinct difference between simply adjusting to the forces which press upon us or establishing a new economic, social and environmental order.

However, it goes on to state that higher education in a modern democracy also deepens our understanding of health and social issues, and by providing access to higher levels of learning to people from all backgrounds, it can enhance social inclusion and reduce social and economic disadvantage.It also reaffirms the traditional values, namely that higher education can transform the lives of individuals and through them their communities and the nation by engendering the love of learning for its own sake and the passion for intellectual discovery.

These are competing functions and it is difficult to see how knowledge for its sake can be reconciled with the human capital idea of education as skilling up the workforce to ensure economic growth in a knowledge intensive global economy.My interpretation is that the Review's position is education sector is identified as having responsibility for social and economic nation building, and so the review aims to provides the foundation for the potential reconstruction of the policy settings for higher education in a knowledge intensive global economy.

Putting the "redivide of the sector according to teaching and research" ( ie., teaching-only universities) back on the table maybe a gesture to more comprehensive reform of the relationship between universities and vocational education -- including the architecture of a new binary system.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 11:44 AM | | Comments (1)
Comments

Comments

Gary,
Fred Hilmer,the vice-chancellor of the University of NSW, has an op-ed in The Australian, where he says:

we must do something to eliminate the fragmentation and perverse incentives that are ticking time bombs. If they are not fixed the risk is that our universities will slide into mediocrity.This is a great opportunity: an opportunity to ensure we have enough scientists to deal with the challenge of climate change, enough engineers to build the facilities we need, enough doctors to deal with an ageing population, enough teachers and nurses and enough business experts to create the financial centres that are the engines of our economy. We cannot afford to blow it.