Mapping Australian higher education
Grattan Institute Report No. 2012-1, January 2012
This report was written by Andrew Norton, Grattan Institute Higher Education Program Director. Grattan Associates Julian Reichl and Ben Weidmann, and Grattan interns Peter Deutscher and ShanVerne Liew, contributed to the report’s research and production. We would like to thank the members of the Grattan Institute’s Higher Education Reference Group for their helpful comments.
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The opinions in this report are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Grattan Institute’s founding members, affiliates, individual board members or reference group members. Any remaining errors or omissions are the responsibility of the author. This version was revised on 14 March 2012. The only significant change was to correct funding levels for maths and science in table 8 on page 50. For further information on the Institute’s programs, or to join our mailing list, please go to: http://www.grattan.edu.au/ This report may be cited as: Norton , A, 2012, Mapping Australian higher education, Grattan Institute, Melbourne.
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Grattan Institute 2012
Mapping Australian higher education
For people new to higher education and higher education policy, the field can seem bewildering. Basic facts are surprisingly difficult to find and interpret. Funding entitlements reflect the sector’s history more than consistent policy principles. Free markets exist alongside tight government regulation. Mapping Australian higher education is the first report from the Grattan Institute’s higher education program. It puts in one place key facts and their context. ‘Higher education’ covers 39 universities, and over 100 other institutions. Higher education expenditure is $23 billion per year, almost 2% of Australia’s GDP. For such a large sector of the Australian economy, it does not always attract the policy focus and public interest that might be expected. Student numbers, both domestic and international, more than doubled over the last 20 years. Higher proportions are international, studying off-campus, and female, now 58% of the cohort. Yet broad fields of study are surprisingly stable. Student satisfaction is improving, but engagement between academics and students remains below levels achieved in other countries. The proportion of graduates getting jobs that use their higher education skills has remained constant despite the rise in student numbers. Graduate incomes are twice those of school leavers, and the rate of return on higher education investment is increasing, although graduates are not on average more satisfied with their jobs. Grattan Institute 2012 Higher education generally meets labour market demands, although shortages of health and engineering professionals have persisted over the last decade. Higher education research is growing rapidly. Increasing numbers of research-only staff helped university research publications more than double in a decade. Most research expenditure is in health, natural and physical sciences, far more than their share of students. The Commonwealth has increased its policy reach, creating a new quality regulator. But as of this year, it no longer regulates domestic undergraduate student numbers in most courses. Australia does not have a crisis in higher education. However, some policy issues are evident. Higher education policy favours producing teaching and research together. This adds costs to teaching, and it is unclear whether it adds educational benefits. Teaching-focused providers may be a good alternative for some students....
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