Tertiary Education Australian Style

Sep 2, 2016 by

by I am Spartacus –

Dr. Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, recently wrote a very interesting piece in the Australian – Time to change our university graduate expectations by degrees.  Please Cats – let’s not get diverted into a debate about why Australia (and apparently every State and Territory in Australia) has and needs a Chief Scientist.  And whilst the role of the Australian Chief Scientist is to provide:

high-level independent advice to the Prime Minister and other Ministers on matters relating to science, technology and innovation,

I will leave it to others to comment on and make observations about the Prime Minister taking advice on matters relating to science, technology and innovation.

But moving on.

Dr. Finkel is a very smart man; not only a scientist but a business man.  He founded a business called Axon Instruments many years ago, listed in on the ASX from where it was acquired by another US based company.

In his piece, Dr. Finkel writes of issues within the Australian tertiary education system whereby certain programs produce too may graduates for the economy to absorb.  He cites the example of law:

Today we produce 15,000 law graduates every year and a legal profession with only 66,000 jobs, thus the odds of a graduate enjoying a long-term career in law are slim.

Dr. Finkel suggests that university graduates in a particular field should not limit (or be limited in) their career choices to just the areas of their study.  So says Dr. Finkel:

It is time for the narrative to change, in fairness to our graduates and in anticipation of the national needs.  Let’s abandon the historical expectation that degrees and careers should be tightly linked. Instead, let’s unchain our thinking and embrace the opportunities.

Fair enough.  He is close in his analysis, but not but not quite there IMO.

Because the market for tertiary education (including vocational education) is not a real a market but rather a centrally planned mess.

Students don’t really know what the price of their education is because it is masked through HECS and their future tax contributions.  As a result, they are unable to properly assess the costs and benefits of their education.

Other the other side, tertiary education providers are not accountable to their customers, the people who should pay them, but rather to the government, the people who do do pay them.  Governments, who pay for and provide the “education services” are more interested that tertiary education exists and less so about what comes out.

Much like every service delivery area they meddle, Governments never worry about the consumer but rather the producer.  You always hear governments committing to schools, hospitals and roads and never to students, patients and commuters.  This is not a rhetorical fault.  This is a feature.  Anything government produces (eg education, health and transport) always costs more than it would if the producers were directly accountable to the consumers.

Put it all together and you get … Tertiary Education Australian Style.

By pumping too many kids into tertiary education under the false pretext of “investment”, the quality of the whole system is diluted and over priced resulting in a too large a proportion of graduates being priced out of the labour market (because lawyers don’t want to work in sales or human services).  Oh and don’t forget the HECS debt albatros around their necks or if they never earn enough to pay HECS contributions, around the necks of future tax papers.

Free university education.  Not really.

Source: Tertiary Education Australian Style | Catallaxy Files

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.