CQU vice-chancellor says time for change to higher education
FOR the first time, Australia's six dual-sector universities have joined forces to call for major reform to Australia's tertiary education system to produce graduates better prepared for the modern job market.
CQUniversity is Queensland's only duel-sector university and vice-chancellor Professor Nick Klomp admits to being impatient.
He says the difference in the way higher education and vocational education and training, or VET, are treated needs to be fixed.
It's a drum he's been banging during ongoing meetings with politicians as the sector ties itself up in knots with "a whole lot of red tape".
In a new paper, Reforming Post-secondary Education in Australia, the dual-sector universities, which offer both higher education and VET, call for a new level of commonwealth-state co-operation, through the Council of Australian Governments to improve the system.
The report is signed by the vice-chancellors of the six dual-sector universities - Central Queensland, Federation, RMIT, Victoria, Swinburne and Charles Darwin.
"Enrolments in higher education have grown rapidly (although funding has now been capped) while VET enrolments in publicly funded courses are lower than they were a decade ago as public investment in VET has declined," they say.
The vice-chancellors say there would be potential benefits in a single national funding system for higher education (which is funded by the commonwealth) and VET (which is mainly state funded). But they recognise that not all state governments would agree to hand over responsibility for VET funding to Canberra.
Prof Klomp admits it's a hard road to hoe and is proposing a five-year pilot study be conducted at CQUniversity, which has campuses in every state except Tasmania.
"Just give us five years to show what can be done," he told The Morning Bulletin's Future CQ breakfast last month.
"Just back off, let us be the expert educators and show what can be done in all these areas. We'll teach Australia how good it can be."
A trial, or pilot study, he says would eliminate concerns about what other universities were doing and could help to better bring vocational training in line with the needs of international students as well.
"Boy am I pushing that barrow, and I'm getting a bit of an audience, but it's to do with the state and federal divide and where the money's coming from," he said.
"I can understand politicians are having trouble making decisions and I'm trying to make it easy proposing that CQUniversity does a trial."
The six vice-chancellors have proposed a "coherent funding framework" for post-secondary education, including HECS-type loans to VET "so no student in post-secondary education has to pay upfront fees".
The vice-chancellors have called for a thorough overhaul of the current teaching model.
They say the current VET competency model is overly focused on narrow occupational tasks linked to current and often dated workplace requirements.
The paper says there needs to be a stronger focus on underpinning knowledge, skills and capabilities to ensure those in vocational training are prepared for the future workforce where people will work in a number of different jobs, and that tertiary qualifications should be reformed so university students can choose units from both higher education and VET.
The paper highlights major anomalies where students pay very different fees for similar courses and have different access to income-contingent loans depending on whether they are studying higher education or VET and which state they are in.
Professor Klomp says Australia's 40 universities are expert educators with accreditation recognised globally.
"You may have a go at a university every now and again, but Australia's higher education and vocational training sector is the envy of the world," he said.
"We are just about to take over Britain as the second most sought after location for international students, but we do make it hard."