At the 2022 election Labor promised up to 20,000 new student places in skills shortage areas for members of equity groups. The minister announced high-level allocations last October. The funding agreements implementing the promise for 2023 were published last month, providing additional but not complete detail. This a multi-year program and the current 2021-2023 funding agreements do not include 2024 commencing places.
This post describes the available information on student place allocation, highlighting the policy and legal flaws in distributing funding this way. The policy’s problems are exacerbated by the Job-ready Graduates Commonwealth contribution changes.
Allocations by funding cluster
When universities received their allocations many were surprised by student places they had not requested. These were in funding cluster 1, the law, commerce and most humanities cluster. Just over 30 per cent (3,026) of the 9,851 places allocated in this round are in cluster 1.
The Department of Education’s manoeuvre can be seen in the funding agreements, an example below, which are prescriptive about the use of cluster 2 and 3 places, following information in funding applications, but not cluster 1. Instead, another clause says ‘these [cluster 1] places are to be delivered in line with a separate agreement between the Provider and the Department.’ To stay consistent with the original guidelines the cluster 1 courses need to be in skills shortage fields. Accounting and auditing are on the skills shortage list, although universities could also find other ‘relevant industry needs or shortages’.Read More »