Last night The Dawkins Revolution 25 Years On, which I co-edited with Simon Marginson, Julie Wells and Gwil Croucher, was launched by the Chief Scientist, Ian Chubb, with a right of reply by John Dawkins himself.
In my chapter on the Coalition, I described Dawkins as the most important education minister yet to hold office. Gillard’s combined tenures as education minister and then prime minister might yet see her take that title, but for now it is both the scale and durability of what Dawkins did that puts him in the top position.
* The mergers of many institutions and the transformations of former colleges of advanced education and institutes of technology into universities (discussed in chapters by Simon Marginson and Ian Marshman and Gavin Moodie).
* The introduction of HECS (discussed in a chapter by Bruce Chapman and Jane Nicholls).
* The introduction of a system of setting funding rates by discipline that is still the basis of today’s rates (discussed in a chapter by Ross Williams).
* A substantial expansion in student numbers (discussed in a chapter by Richard James, Tom Karmel and Emmaline Bexley).
* Increased the role of competitive grants in funding research (discussed in a chapter by Gwil Croucher and Frank Larkins).
* Contributed substantially to the opening up of Australian higher education to international students, including a prior period as trade minister (discussed in a chapter by Margaret Gardner).
* Started deregulation of postgraduate coursework markets.
Most reforms since then have built on the foundations of Dawkins. As I argue in my chapter, the 1999 Kemp reform proposals (which I worked on as his higher education adviser) were the only major attempt to over-turn Dawkins in favour of a more market-driven system.
Those reforms were destroyed after the Cabinet submission was leaked to Labor. Ironically, it was Labor ten years later that introduced a version of the ‘voucher’ system proposed in 1999.