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Australia’s tertiary education sector needs “urgent” reform as the participation rate of young Australians declines, a new report from the Mitchell Institute has warned.
The report shows a projected participation decline of around 16% over the next 10 years, while the “vast majority” of jobs will require post-school training.
Roughly 96% of the 1.1 million jobs created by 2021 will demand university or Vocational Education and Training (VET) qualifications, the analysis said.
Victoria University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Dawkins has called for policy changes to allow students to obtain crucial skills and meet industry demands.
“Major reforms are needed to tertiary education to boost participation rates, respond to a rapidly changing industry sector, better deliver for the diversity of students now seeking to study in tertiary education, and maintain Australia’s prosperity,” he said.
Policies such as up-front fees cause many students to miss out on job opportunities, Dawkins said.
“It is both unfair and inefficient that only students studying undergraduate courses and some TAFE courses can access student loans to cover fees,” he said.
“Similarly, low-income Australians can access income support for undergraduate studies but not for many postgraduate or VET courses.
“These policies need to change to provide greater opportunity for young Australians and meet the demands of industry.”
Higher quality VET courses, completed subject credits for students transitioning from VET to university, a greater proportion of higher education entry-level courses provided by the VET sector, and practical apprenticeships integrated with theoretical components at university and VET would be more cost effective and efficient for students.
“Industry is telling us it wants graduates to be job-ready, which is why on-the-job training is so crucial. Extending apprenticeships to the professional sector along with new technical apprenticeships presents a significant opportunity to boost the quality and work readiness of our graduates,” Dawkins said.
Innovative teaching models, like Victoria University’s intensive “VU Way” model, are also needed to support learning for a diverse range of students, Dawkins said.
The Mitchell Institute has suggested the following reforms:
- A more equitable approach to student loans.
- An improved funding model to boost participation.
- Better connection between the VET and university sectors.
- Expansion of traditional apprenticeships to new industries and occupations including the professional sector.
- Innovation in teaching.
“It is this type of innovation that is needed to improve the quality of education for all students, better support disadvantaged students, improve the quality of graduate for industry and deliver cost savings.”