The Impact Of This Year’s Election On the Higher Education Space
This year’s election poses long-term ramifications on the higher education space, with issues such as funding and student attrition being critical.
With thoughtful policies, more young Australians can be encouraged to pursue higher education and in particular vocational education, addressing long term skill shortages that have been plaguing the nation.
The Australian government should therefore endeavour to provide everyone with the opportunity to pursue higher education, even if not everyone chooses to go that route.
This is a system which provided universities with a tuition subsidy so they could enrol unlimited numbers of bachelor degree students.
Additionally, the report draws attention to the importance of reducing student attrition and increasing vocational education funding to provide better career opportunities to young Australians and address the nation’s skills shortage.
Increase in school-leavers expected
A pressing issue in the higher education space that must be addressed in this year’s election is that we are set to see more school leavers than ever in the next coming years.
In ten years, there will be
more 18-year-olds than there are today
Judging by current participation levels, we can expect an additional 20,000 school leavers to be looking for a place at university.
However, it could be said that current the university funding policy provides more of an incentive to decrease rather than increase student places, meaning Australian universities will fail to meet this demand. The government elected in 2019 could therefore consider restoring demand-driven funding, which can be done without legislation.
The growing importance of vocational education
In the next term of government, more students should be given equal opportunity to pursue both vocational education and higher education. We are currently seeing a drop in vocational education participation, particularly in major cities.
According to the National Centre for Vocational Education Research, TAFE enrolment rates fell 6.5% between 2016-17, with a 5.9% drop in the overall number of students enrolled in the government-funded vocational education and training system.
This is a detrimental trend, as some students may actually have better employment opportunities with a vocational education qualiﬁcation. Australia is seeing a crippling skills shortage in technical and trades occupations; workforces which depend on a strong pipeline of talent from the vocational education system.
In former New Zealand politician Steven Joyce’s “Strengthening skills: expert review of Australia’s vocational education and training system”, it was found that nearly half of school-leavers aspiring to a job that needed a vocational education were planning on getting a bachelor’s degree, showing what misconceptions and a lack of funding can do to students’ decision making and perceived options.
The federal government should consider long-term initiatives to encourage participation in TAFE as well as the wider vocational education sector.
Solutions for the next government to consider
Greater support for students and better career information to help students decide on the best educational pathway for them will be highly beneficial
Doing so can potentially mean a reduction in university attrition alongside an increase in vocational education participation, as students may find courses they are passionate about in the vocational education system rather than the university system.
Negotiation with state governments and additional Commonwealth funds will help to provide the necessary funding arrangements for vocational education
Returning to demand-driven higher education and making more loans available to vocational students will also assist with the process. Clear information should be provided on the education required for certain jobs to change the misconception that good jobs can only be obtained through a university education, and obstacles that are hindering students from choosing vocational education must be broken down.
By returning to the demand-driven system, universities will have the opportunity to better respond to the growth in demand and population. If it wins the election, Labor promises demand-driven funding from 2020 and a major review of post-secondary education, while the current Government announced a new National Careers Institute in the 2019-20 Budget, with one of the aims being to raise the profile of vocational education is one of its aims.
Candlefox is well-poised to usher in a new era of higher education that emphasises both university education, vocational education and flexible study options.
We hope to see greater opportunity and support for entering both higher and vocational education in order to address the nation’s current and potential skill shortages.