Uni scholarship donations not so praiseworthy

I saw the PM on the news tonight praising Graham Tuckwell’s $50 million donation to the ANU to fund undergraduate scholarships. No doubt there are worse ways for a rich man to spend $50 million, but there are also much better ways.

Like many scholarship schemes, the Tuckwell scholarship will go to people who already have plenty of potential that is unlikely to go to waste. They will go to university anyway, find mentors anyway (one of the claimed benefits of the scheme), and make something of their lives. They are not the people who need help.

Instead, these scholarships are used for essentially wasteful positional competition between universities. The ANU will use the Tuckwell’s scholarships and the associated publicity to try to take top students away from Sydney, Melbourne and other universities that buy talented students .

If I had $50 million to spend on higher education I would put it into MOOCs. I don’t know if they will really turn out to be the next big thing in higher education. But Coursera, for example, on a capital base of US$22 million has already attracted 2.5 million enrolments. It includes many people from developing countries with little prospect otherwise of higher education. It can make so much more difference than adding to the advantages of people who have so many already.

  1. I heard him talking to Waleed Aly. Tuckwell was insistent he wanted his money to go to Australian students. I too was wondering why these > 95% TER students needed $25k pa. I think Tuckwell wants to blaze a trail for Australian businessmen-turned-philanthropists.

  2. “A total of 25 undergraduate scholarships worth $20,000 will be awarded annually for up to five years, to cover accommodation and living costs.”

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-02-05/aussie-entrepreneur-donates-50m-to-anu/4501338

    So… what basic maths am I missing here? I know admin costs would figure somehow, but half of the program?

    25 x 20000 x 5 = $25m

  3. I think it is adding 25 each year for 5 years = 125 when running fully, at an annual cost of $2.5 million. Plus on-costs from uni, presumably the investment returns on the $50 million.

  4. Talk about Uncle Scrooge not happy its Christmas time !

    This very generous act should be applauded. The money will assist people who SHOULD be going to university into actually making it. The funds will entice talented people to study hard, to go the extra mile, so that they too may study at Australia’s only fair dinkum university. The only Aussie university that recognises quality beats quantity every time !

    And if you still don’t like it, why don’t you go and donate your own $50m to whatever purpose you want. Gees Louise !

  5. I cannot believe that people are not praising this donation! I am a single parent. My son has worked extremely hard at school and does very well with his grades.

    There was no way I could have financially supported my son for five years whilst he went to university to study law and economics.

    My son applied for this scholarship and was successful.

    I will be forever grateful to Mr & Mrs Tuckwell for their donation. My son would never have had such a head start. To say that these students are smart and will get at least 95 in the HSC therefore they will not need financial assistance is obsurd. Sure, my son is smart and has worked extremely hard, but there is no way I could afford the fees and living expenses.

    I sincerely hope that I am able to meet the Tuckwells in the near future to express my gratitude and let them know them know how grateful my son and I are for their donation.

    I hope that my son is very successful in his chosen field and gives to the community the way this family has.

Leave a Comment