Capped Placements

8 August 2016

The Group of Eight (Go8) universities have called on the Federal Government to impose a limit on undergraduate placements, which would turn back the clock on the Coalition Government’s decision to uncap undergraduate placements in 2012.

The Go8 encompasses the leading universities in Australia, including the University of Melbourne. In its statement, the group said it believes that whilst the demand­ based system has succeeded in increasing participation in higher education, Australia must now focus on a sustainable funding policy.

Vice ­Chancellor of the UoM Glyn Davis proposed a ‘cap and trade’ model, which would solve the issue of overcrowded and overfunded undergraduate programs. Davis cites this as the cause of the current oversupply of graduates in areas such as teaching.

Despite the changes made back in 2012, undergraduate placements are still financially capped at the UoM. In an exclusive deal, the government has allowed the University to instead strengthen its post­graduate programs.

Non­Go8 universities expressed concern over the statements.

Andrew Dempster, Head of Corporate and Government Affairs at Swinburne University of Technology says Swinburne University supports the current funding system.

“Just a few years ago Australia had the major problem of unmet demand for higher education, with too many applicants and not enough places,” he said in an interview with Farrago. “In days past, higher education was a privilege that was extended only to the elite students. This is the 21st century. We need to broaden educational opportunities if Australia is to be an innovative, high­wage economy.”

UMSU Education (Public) Office Bearer, Akira Boardman, says that whilst keeping placements uncapped is best, it seems to be incentivising high levels of enrolment for universities regardless of individual student needs.

“I do not advocate for a cap on places to return at all, but the current system must be met with a much larger government contribution of university funding.”

She is also concerned that the uncapping of placements will once again leave students of disadvantaged backgrounds out of the higher education system.

Provost at the UoM, Margaret Sheil, agrees that the most important issue universities would face is the maintenance of strong access programs for students of disadvantaged backgrounds. Sheil told Farrago the University is committed to its Access Melbourne program, which supports students who may face a number of barriers, including financial disadvantage, under-representation and disability.

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