Government rejects higher ed funding review’s main recommendations

To nobody’s surprise, the federal government has rejected the 2011 base funding review panel’s main recommendations (media release here).

The biggest policy change suggested by the BFR panel was that every student should pay 40% of the Commonwealth-supported funding rate, with taxpayers paying the other 60%. With students currently paying between 28% and 83% of their course’s funding rates (details at p. 52 of Mapping Australian higher education), that would have meant some students paying less (eg law, business) and many others paying more (eg medicine, nursing, engineering, science, education).

Logically and empirically, 40/60 was always dubious. It was based on the idea that government should pay the anticipated future value of higher education’s public benefits. Graduate Winners argued against that idea, proposing a framework in which the public aims to profit from its higher education investment.

The flat 40/60 was based on the idea that public benefits were similar between disciplines. As one of the main public benefits was increased tax revenue, that assumption is clearly false (data also in Graduate Winners, but easily inferred from the BFR background paper on private financial returns). And even if this was true, it logically leads to a flat rate subsidy and not a proportion of total funding rates, which have nothing to do with subsequent benefits.Read More »