Mitchell Institute policy paper supports the local community role of post-secondary institutions

A major policy paper published by the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University supports the local community role of Australian post-secondary institutions.

The report, entitled Rethinking and Revitalising Tertiary Education, includes a major policy recommendation to promote “local solutions by encouraging providers who collaborate with industry to provide locally relevant pathways that equip students to succeed in their own communities.”

The report defines tertiary education as both university and vocational education and training (VET), and is highly critical of how Australia has let the VET sector decline. The report was written by VU Vice Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins AO, Professor Peter Noonan (a past CCA Conference speaker) and Peter Hurley.

“Community Colleges Australia welcomes the focus on local solutions provided by post-secondary education providers. Our sector – not-for-profit adult and community education – specialises in local community engagement and place-based approaches to delivering education and training to the communities where they work,” said Dr Don Perlgut, CEO of Community Colleges Australia.

The report reads:

“Vibrant, locally engaged education institutions are an important part of the student experience. As with pedagogical innovation, these partnerships are already occurring throughout the tertiary education sector, but would benefit from greater policy support. Policy-makers can encourage local solutions and connections between tertiary institutions and communities by:

  • recognising the role that tertiary education institutions play in their local communities
  • rewarding institutions that create and maintain effective connections
  • directing extra resources to where they may be needed, for instance in rural areas or areas of social disadvantage, in order to engage effectively with local communities.” (p. 22, emphasis by CCA)

“It is just these local connections – especially in rural and regional areas – where Australia’s not-for-profit adult and community education providers specialise and bring enormous value to Australian education and training,” said Dr Perlgut.

Other selections from the Mitchell Institute report (Report PDF of 1mg available here):

“In the VET sector, this means that the fragmentation of the sector is likely to continue. State governments are currently implementing different VET policy agendas, while the federal government is lacking a policy approach that will arrest the overall decline.” (p. 16).

“The decline in VET participation is of particular concern, because VET plays an especially vital role in providing learning experiences to students that are not available in the higher education sector. Ultimately, it is students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds that suffer because they are the students who use the VET sector the most.” (p. 16)

“However, official policy too often views higher education through a market lens, which has narrowed the purpose of tertiary education to the enhancement of personal earnings and employability (Marginson, 2016). In additional to a tertiary institution’s unique role within communities, it is also important to recognise the role of the community in providing an engaging student experience.” (pp. 21-22)

Symposium on Role of Universities in the 2020s

The Mitchell Institute report provides the basis of a symposium to be held at Victoria University in Melbourne on 30 August, entitled Role of Universities in the 2020s. The symposium will explore the role of universities and the tertiary sector in responding to changing labour market needs and a diverse student population.

The Symposium is part of a series of events commemorating the centenary of the birth of Sir Zelman Cowen, the distinguished Australian scholar, statesman, and a university leader in Australia and internationally. The Symposium – presented by Victoria University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Dawkins AO, the Sir Zelman Cowen Centre and the Mitchell Institute for Education and Health Policy.

The Symposium will be facilitated by Professor Glyn Davis AC. Other speakers include Vice-Chancellors from the universities with which Sir Zelman was closely associated – the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, University of New England, Griffith University and Oriel College, Oxford – along with senior leaders from business and industry.

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