I recently received some new data on completion and attrition rates by ATAR, a surprisingly under-examined topic in Australian higher education. My Mapping Australian higher education publication summarises research suggesting a weak relationship between ATAR and average marks. However, data on 2005 commencing students shows a quite strong relationship beween ATAR and completion – the higher the ATAR, the higher the chance of completion. The whole cohort data is in this article.
We also have the data by field of education. Most disciplines have the same general pattern. But two, health and education, have higher persistence at lower ATARs, as can be seen below.
The same two broad fields of study also have graduates with high rates of retention in jobs related to their field of study, as seen in the chart below.
I’m inclined to think that the main reason is that people who choose these degrees have a relatively high degree of commitment to the end occupation from day one. A colleague notes that this may in part be because students in these fields don’t necessarily have many attractive alternatives. For people with lowish ATARs who don’t want to do voc ed, teaching and nursing have been paths to relatively secure and reasonably paid careers.
Sad news over at Catallaxy that Kenneth Minogue has died.
In the 1980s he was one of the political theorists who made me think that I wanted to be one too – I was in the tiny handful of people interested in this K. Minogue rather than the other one. My pre-computer card files list 36 Minogue articles I had stored away for future study. I am rarely much good with titles, but I still like some of his: ‘The Hucksters of Happiness’, ‘The Prison Cell of Political Theory’, and ‘Freedom as a Skill’.
The last one hints at his political position. He was a classical liberal, but presumably influenced by his LSE colleague Michael Oakeshott saw it as based on the culture and practices of Western societies, rather than on single abstract principles such as liberty or natural rights from which all else must be derived. Living in a free society requires ‘skills’ that need to be learned – the quotations in Julie Novak’s Catallaxy obituary from early and late in Minogue’s career show how this was a long-running theme.
I think Minogue’s inductive liberalism is probably a minority position in political theory, or at least there is far more written about grand attempts to create principles to govern society, such as John Rawls’ original position. But in real-world liberalism it is common. The conclusions for liberty, markets, limited government, and so on are still there, but with messy arguments based on precedent, analogy, tradition and many different general principles.
Minogue discusses his ideas in this interview I did with him in 1995. Minogue spoke as he wrote, in well-formed sentences. He was as easy to edit as he was to read.
Kenneth Minogue, RIP.
A reader of my article on science graduates surplus to labour market requirements took exception to a figure showing poor job relevance of agriculture degrees. He points out (correctly) that this ABS category is ‘Agriculture, Environmental and Related Studies’, and argues that the poor outcomes are due to the environmental rather than agricultural element.
Unfortunately, the survey I was using in the figure does not report at sub-field level. However, the census does and we can see that although environmental studies is the biggest sub-field (the numbers in brackets) the more traditional agricultural areas don’t do especially well in leading to professional or managerial employment, the occupations the ABS deems to require bachelor-degree level skills.
Note: Only includes people reporting a bachelor degree as their highest qualification. Those not working and those currently studying have been excluded.
On a quick glance there looked to be unusually large numbers in jobs classified by the ABS as ‘technicians and tradespersons’. Adding them in takes most disciplines up to 70-76% employment.
The numbers for recent agriculture graduates may be compromised by the inclusion of environmental graduates (they use a different disciplinary classification to the ABS; I am not sure what is included in agriculture). But their employment rates are slightly below average.
I am aware that employers in the agricultural sector report recruiting difficulties. But overall these figures suggest that agriculture is a relatively high employment risk course choice.
This morning The Conversation ran another article by me on the employability of science graduates.
I used some data from the ABS Learning and Work survey. Unfortunately access to their micro-data is not free, but it does allow more detailed exploration of graduate qualifications and outcomes than most other sources. Most ABS surveys, for example, just ask about a respondent’s highest qualification. Learning and Work asks about multiple qualifications.
Learning and Work estimates that there are about 348,000 people with a bachelor degree in science. However, 35 per cent of the report as their highest degree either a postgraduate degree in science or a degree in another field. The most common other fields were education, management, health and IT. [Note: The figures in the table were corrected on 24 June. The figures in the text were correct.]
So while employment prospects in some disciplines are sometimes not great, people often adapt to this by seeking higher or different qualifications that improve their job prospects.
This week’s Essential Report has some rare polling on campaign finance issues.
Perhaps not surprisingly given the negative reaction to last month’s plan for ‘administrative’ funding, support for public funding is at less than 30%:
But surprisingly to me, most voters who offered a view on the disclosure threshold opted for $5,000 or above. I was expecting a populist response and a low threshold.
And most voters prefer a cap to unlimited donations, but no question on how much.
Except for the capping question, public opinion on this subject is more ‘liberal’ than I would have anticipated.
The Age this morning reported that Julian Assange had been prevented by the Bank of America from directly donating to his own Wikileaks Party.
Assange asked that the $25,000 award [from Yoko Ono] be sent to the WikiLeaks Party, a separate legal entity to WikiLeaks. However, in April Ms Ono’s office said the Bank of America had refused to wire the money to the party’s account. …The Bank of America is one of a number of major financial institutions including Visa, American Express, Mastercard and Western Union that since December 2010 have refused to transfer funds to WikiLeaks.
But if the Labor campaign finance bill still before the Senate passes, Assange’s problem won’t just be the Bank of America. The Wikileaks Party would not be able to receive any foreign-sourced donation. Unless Assange still has an Australian bank account, he would not be able to donate his own money either.
Preventing ‘foreigners’ from expressing their views on Australian politics is bad enough. But preventing Australians, even candidates, from donating is an indefensible constraint on political freedom.
Until writing this post I had not checked out the Wikileaks Party website. Its donations page advises that:
Presently donations to the WikiLeaks Party are anonymous unless otherwise requested
Unfortunately, that’s wrong. Until their registration as a political party is confirmed they are a ‘third party’, and must disclose donations over $12,100 (unless Labor’s bill gets through, in which case it will be donations over $1,000).
The plan by the main political parties to award themselves large amounts of taxpayers’ money showed such naked self-interest that the public awoke from its general indifference to campaign finance law, and forced the Liberals to withdraw their support.
But there was an underlying political logic behind the Liberal position. They were trying deal with a bill to lower the donation disclosure threshold from $12,000 to $1,000 that has already passed the House of Representatives and could still pass the Senate before the election. They feared that this would have a disproportionate effect on their supporters, who for social, employment, business or political reasons don’t want their names appearing on the AEC website. Labor’s main financial backers, the unions, are obviously quite open about their support.
Labor’s problem is less that their supporters don’t want their names disclosed than that too few people want to give them money under any circumstances. Hence their plan for so-called ‘administrative funding’ to finance them year-to-year. They offered the Liberals a higher disclosure threshold in exchange for this taxpayer-financed bail-out. The deal was done, but has now been broken.
Now Julia Gillard is threatening to go back to the original bill. I wrote a lengthy critique of it back in 2011. Around that time I also wrote op-eds that more briefly explain some of the issues:
* why the idea that a $1,000 threshold is needed to stop undue influence is ridiculous; the only plausible purpose of such a law is to deter donors;
* the xenophobic attempts to restrict the influence of ‘foreigners’;
* and the unjustifiable measures to harass NGOs.
There is almost nothing to be said in favour of this bill, and it would be sad day for Australian democracy if it is passed.
I had hoped that Labor’s long-stalled campaign finance reforms would be left behind in the rush of legislation before the election. But that has proved to be an over-optimistic view, and media reports this morning suggest that they have done a deal with the Coalition to get an amended version of the legislation through.
Essentially, it looks like the parties are awarding themselves more public funding and reducing the donations disclosure threshold from $12,100 to $5,000. Labor had wanted to lower the disclosure threshold to $1,000. While I don’t think there is any need to change the disclosure threshold, $5,000 is certainly a lot better than $1,000.
Apart from the problems around disclosure, the threshold is (for no obvious reason) used for other purposes in the legislation, such as the total amount of spending required for third parties to have to enter the campaign finance system. If they spend more than the threshold, they face complex reporting requirements.
Here I think $5,000 is too low, even on the arguments put by advocates of tighter campaign finance laws. Small-scale activism leading to a $5,000 spend on election issues poses no plausible threat to the integrity of government or to political fairness. To the contrary, having the AEC harass minor activists reduces political fairness.
In April, there was fury in higher education circles over billion of dollars in cuts to higher education-related spending (how much depends on how many years of the forward estimates you count). But comparison of the 2012-13 and 2013-14 budget papers suggests that the government is anticipating another large saving that nobody is talking about – revised down estimated future costs of the HELP loan scheme.
The chart below shows that over the future overlapping years of the two budgets (2013-14 to 2015-16) the saving will total about $2.3 billion. A small part of this reduction is the announced removal of the discount for paying student contributions up-front and the bonus for repaying early. But most of it is a big reduction in future anticipated interest costs.
The method they use for calculating the interest cost is apparently in accordance with accounting standards, though it is very confusing and does not aid understanding of the policy issues. The method we have used at Grattan (pages 42-45) is more straightforward (so far we arrive at similar numbers to the Department). We look at the difference between the interest the government is paying on its debt and the CPI inflation interest they are charging on outstanding HELP debt. The difference between them is the interest subsidy (or profit; it’s happened once).
Essentially, the government is borrowing quite cheaply at the moment, and they anticipate that this will continue in the few years covered by the forward estimates. But due to the huge amounts outstanding on HELP even small movements in bond rates could have major cost consequences. At the end of the forward estimates period, every 1 percentage point gap between the bond rate and CPI would add around $500 million to the interest subsidy.
The loan scheme gets little attention from universities; money they or currently enrolled students don’t receive is invisible to them. But HELP is a major part of higher education funding, and controlling its costs needs to be part of an overall higher education funding policy.
Greg Craven on state government control of education, 2007:
Despite a total lack of experience in education, it [the Howard government] has created Commonwealth Technical Colleges, tried to control state school curricula and muttered darkly about controlling state education systems.
Canberra has only been able to intrude because it has the money, not the authority. Perhaps it should leave the money and run. Is it really impossible to argue that an elected Victorian government has a genuine interest in the education of Victorian children and that – horror – it might even bring local insight to the process? …
The mantra “Trust me, I’m with the Commonwealth” has the plausibility of a four-dollar note.
Greg Craven on state government control of education, 2013: Read more »