A senior Australian higher education commentator laid out a comprehensive critique of tertiary education funding at the Community Colleges Australia (CCA) Annual Conference in Melbourne on Wednesday 26 July.
Professor Peter Noonan, who is a Professor of Tertiary Education Policy at the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University in Melbourne, gave a speech to the conference entitled “The current and future landscape for tertiary education funding”, which has been published on the Mitchell Institute website.
Professor Noonan stated that “getting the decisions right” about Australian vocational education and training (VET) policy is critical.
“The Department of Employment’s occupational projections forecast that an additional 990,000 jobs are expected to be created by 2020…. Contrary to much of the public rhetoric, not all of that growth will be in the most highly skilled occupations. The Department projects about 480,000 jobs will require Degree or higher qualifications, while about 437,000 will require Certificate, Diploma and Advanced Diploma level qualifications,” Professor Noonan said.
Professor Noonan continued: “These labour market projections point to a need for ongoing, but better-balanced growth across the higher education and VET sectors. Yet participation levels in VET are actually falling at present, particularly amongst young people.”
“In 2016 we had ongoing, but slowing growth in higher education, and a continued decline in VET across most of Australia. If this trend continues it will lead to an accelerating decline in participation in tertiary education in Australia over the next decade as the population grows,” he said.
Professor Noonan described a “growing imbalance between VET and higher education funding [which] has been evident since 2012, when full funding for demand driven higher education commenced, and most states began to reduce investment in VET. This is why decisions on higher education funding should not be considered in isolation from decisions on VET funding.”
Professor Noonan described a “likely deterrent effect on VET enrolments … creat[ing] major inequity between VET and higher education.” This may happen if “The states may also further increase student fees for state funded VET courses. As students in Certificate level programmes cannot access Vocational Student Loans they must meet the cost of these fees upfront, and VET fees are increasing, in many instances significantly.”
Professor Noonan’s speech was covered in both The Australian (“Peter Noonan wants HECS-style loans for VET students”) and the Australian Financial Review (“The alternative to university funding cuts could be worse”) on 26 July 2016.