Productivity Commission chooses vouchers instead of solutions

Posted By TEU on Sep 29, 2016 |

Tertiary Update Vol 19 No 33

The Productivity Commission’s long-awaited report says the government’s market approach to education does not work. But, bizarrely, it then proposes student vouchers and more market-driven policies as the solution.

The Productivity Commission released its draft report New Models of Tertiary Education today.

The report identifies some of the problems tertiary education faces, noting the many instances that competition and government direction is inhibiting rather than supporting people in tertiary education to do their jobs.

Unfortunately, says TEU national president Sandra Grey, the commission’s proposed solutions for these problems are often more pure competition, or a different form of government regulation.

Grey says the report contains useful analysis but it misses an opportunity to reject the policies that create problems, choosing instead to exacerbate and adapt them.

For instance, the report notes that most people working in tertiary education find that excessive managerialism “reduces their ability to do good and enjoyable work, without any compensating gains in the quality of that work”.

It also finds that the course and qualification completion rates published by government are not a reliable indicator of a provider’s performance in educating students.

And it finds that the tertiary education system is poorly suited for lifelong learning.

Grey says these are issues that TEU has been raising with the government consistently for eight years.

“Rather than tinkering with the measurement dials and privatising the system with with a student voucher scheme, let’s free up the people in public tertiary education, staff and students, to get on with teaching and learning,” she says.

The commission makes a few bold recommendations, such as calling for an end to performance-linked funding, which it says may be detrimental to innovation. The draft report also proposes extending the ability of providers to undertake their own self-accreditation of programmes and other activities.

At the start of the year Grey said the commission should focus on making sure the tertiary education system is fair and equitable, rather than innovative and productive.

The commission’s draft report finds that tertiary education currently extends and exacerbates the inequality that emerges in the schooling system, rather than ameliorating it.

Currently the tertiary education system gives more resources to people who spend more time in education, especially at higher levels. These people also gain the largest private rewards from their education, the report notes.

Grey says this finding could have supported bold change for more equitable public funding that allows all students to study debt-free. Instead, it proposes a voucher system for students,  a model which has been proven to be ineffective, especially for those who may already struggle to pay for tertiary education.

The commission will continue to consult on this draft report and meet with interested people and organisations during October and November. It will present a final report to the government at the end of February next year.

Given this timeframe, Grey says she is surprised that the minister is pressing ahead with separate changes to the Education Act before he receives the final report from the commission.

“Why would he invest so much energy, time and public money in this report and then change the education system before the report comes out?

Also in Tertiary Update this week:

  1. University of Auckland fair pay campaign grows
  2. Education bill gives private companies public funding
  3. Intueri suspends trading
  4. A hundred oppose Lincoln restructuring turmoil

Other news

Big changes are expected at Waikato University as Vice Chancellor Neil Quigley signals changes in the staff to student ratio targets, which one University insider alleges could lead to substantial redundancies for general and academic staff – Hamilton News

University of Otago staff and students protested against cuts to the humanities division during a visit by Deputy Prime Minister Bill English last week. English was met by about 70 people, many holding signs with slogans calling for the Government to stop staff cuts, when he visited the campus to give a talk to commerce students – Otago Daily Times

Expat Kiwis failing to repay their student debt have helped drive the amount owed in default payments past the $1 billion mark. – Stuff

Universities say fundraising is becoming increasingly important for their work and they are receiving millions of dollars a year in donations. But they say that there is not yet a strong culture of philanthropy in New Zealand and the government could do more to encourage donations to universities – Radio NZ

Thanks to mendolus shank at Flickr for the photo –

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