Key Takeaways from the Job Ready Graduates Higher Education Reform Package

Claudia Reiners
July 7, 2020

Key Takeaways from the Job Ready Graduates Higher Education Reform Package

4bf428ed6af9ff680b7ac8b24b046f3d?s=50&d=mm&r=g Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Australian Government’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment has launched a higher education reform package to create job-ready graduates by focusing on public investment in higher education based on national priorities.

The aim is to deliver more job-ready graduates in the key areas, thereby driving Australia’s economic recovery from the current downturn.

We take a look at the funding reforms discussed in the accompanying report, “Job-Ready Graduates: Higher Education Reform Package 2020”.

The Government’s reform package is designed to maintain and sustain the Australian higher education system for students and employers.

This will be done by addressing funding rates, promoting nationally-beneficial university-industry collaboration, creating a more responsive qualifications framework, and setting up the foundation for national economic growth, to name a few of the reforms.

As the coronavirus pandemic exposes vulnerabilities in Australia’s higher education sector, the nation’s ability to recover economically will depend on the number of highly-skilled, creative and dynamic workers we have in our labour market.

Therefore, Australian universities and industry need to be primed to respond to the needs of Australians in the next five years.

The Five Principles of the Reform Package

To meet the above objectives, the reform package centres itself around the following five principles:

  • Agile — The demands of the labour market are evolving, which means Australia needs a high-quality higher education system that meets the evolving needs of the economy and produces talent with the necessary specialisations at the right time.
  • Focused — The higher education system needs to be geared towards student demand and better match graduate skills to employer needs.
  • Innovative — In order to be prepared for the jobs of the future, the education institutions need to take an innovative and flexible approach to teaching and training.
  • Informed — Prospective higher education students must be provided with better information on the potential career paths and the room for employment growth in various fields of study so they can make a more informed decision on the university courses to take.
  • Efficient — TAFE and university funding needs to drive efficient and effective outcomes for the national economy.

The agenda for these reforms are as follows:

  • A simpler funding system with improved incentives and accountability
  • Expanding opportunities for regional, rural and remote students
  • A better integrated tertiary system

Measures to Create a Simpler Funding System

By making the government funding system more efficient, Australia will be able to support an additional 39,000 university places by 2023 and almost 100,000 student places by 2030.

Some of the ways this will be done include:

  • Providing a Tertiary Access Payment of $5,000 for students from outer regional or remote areas to relocate in order to pursue full-time, high-level university education.
  • Incentivise work-integrated learning such as internships through establishing a National Priorities Industry Linkage Fund (NPILF), extend the Industry 4.0 advanced apprenticeship pilot and foster stronger university-industry research collaboration.
  • Better aligning funding with contemporary data on the cost of delivering university education, meaning there will be no increase to student contributions for 60% of students and the HECS-HELP loans system will continue to make higher education accessible.

Measures to Expand Opportunities for Domestic Students in Regional, Rural and Remote Areas

Education participation and attainment rates continue to be significantly lower in regional and remote Australia compared to metropolitan areas.

Some of the ways that equity can be achieved include:

  • Improve access to tertiary study options and financial support for students in RRR areas to drive student enrolments and make student fees more manageable
  • Improving student support services offered to RRR students to assist with transitioning to a metropolitan area and reduce student number attritions
  • Build aspiration and improve career advice offered at schools to set RRR students up for success
  • Improve participation and outcomes for students from equity groups like low socioeconomic status, Indigenous students, and students with disabilities
  • Strengthen the role of tertiary education providers in Australian regional development

Measures to Create a Better Integrated Tertiary System

Universities and industry must collaborate more closely to provide valuable and relevant skills to workers.

This will be achieved by:

  • Extending the Industry 4.0 Advanced Apprenticeship Pilot into a two-year Associate Degree qualification.
  • Progressing the recommendations made in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) Review, like making it easier for students to move between vocational training and higher education, enabling better recognition and greater uptake of microcredential qualifications, and ensuring qualifications incorporate the skills and general capabilities that best support students to be job ready and succeed in a modern workplace.

Higher education reform is now more important than ever due to the ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In order to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, Australian universities and industry need to work together to skill students appropriately in line with workforce needs.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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