All government-subsidised undergraduate science students to pay more

Rather surprisingly, last night’s budget was pain free for universities. But their students were not entirely spared. The previously announced decision to restore previous student contribution amounts for new science students was extended to include continuing science students.

While in my view the discount for science students should never have been offered, the change again highlights the problems caused by the instability of higher education policy, with constant introductions and withdrawals of incentive policies. DEST/DEEWR/DIISR incentive programs rely on the naivety of the punters to work, because anyone who observed this policy area over time would assume that incentive policies lack long-term credibility, and not change their behaviour.

(Of course prospective students are unlikely to follow this detail, so temporary discounts may work. Oddly, a couple of articles (here and here) in today’s budget coverage repeat the Ian Chubb/ government line on science – too little demand for science university places, too little supply of university places, and too few scientists. The evidence does not support any of these propositions. A 2012 report on university applications showed not only that for the third successive year science experienced very large increases in applications and offers, but that science was doing exceptionally well in the 90+ ATAR group. And the argument that we are short of science graduates is not evident in any employment survey.)

  1. Andrew Norton

    Andrew – The debate in the US particularly is heading along these lines. This book by a guy who runs Kaplan, one of the big educational for-profits is interesting. But the industry is also changing here, with unis outsourcing course delivery and companies like Open Universities Australia and Seek Learning acting as brokers rather than providers.

  2. Hi Andrew,

    I wonder if we could run a tally of all the industries who havepredicted an impending shortage of graduates in their area and how this would lead to the downfall of Australian prosperity.

    Maths/science areas have been doing so for years. I think engineering and IT at various times. Health sciences.

    Generally companies that complain about shortages of qualified X really mean, they’d like a surplus so they can pay top tier talent $50K for their first couple of years.

    The minig sector didn’t anticipate 3-5 year ahead and encourage lots of geologist and mining engineers into the right courses.

  3. Andrew Norton

    Skills Australia is supposed to look at future skills needs relative to supply. It is hard for employers to do this separately; they can forecast their own needs, but how that will interact with other employers and educational providers will not be obvious.

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