Encouraging flexibility and increasing opportunity for students: the vital importance of higher education reform
Thank you Mark for your introduction and also to Daniel Musson, the Australian Institute of Management Group CEO for inviting me to launch the Australian Institute of Management Business School’s Online Masters of Business Administration programme.
It’s great to be here.
I would like to acknowledge:
- Andrew McFarlane, Deputy Chairman AIM Group
- Chris Burns, Board Member AIM Group
- Stephanie McConachy & Jake Richardson of the AIM Young Manager Advisory Board, and
- Teri Whiting, Robert Butler & Greg Conner, AIM Life Members
It’s a great pleasure to be here this morning to launch the Institute of Mangement’s business schools online MBA program. AIM has more than 70 years’ experience developing, supporting and promoting the profession of management and leadership across Australia. A community of over 13 500 professionals is a very impressive membership base.
AIM is obviously well aware of the need to move forward and to reinvent itself and its courses in an increasingly competitive global environment, demonstrated by the $1 million investment in the new programme I am launching today.
It is also pleasing to learn that the institute has recently been granted approval for VET FEE HELP funding. This means AIM students studying VET courses will now have access to income-contingent loans.
Even more good news is to follow once our higher education reforms are passed through the Senate.
As you will be aware debate continued in the Parliament on the legislation this week but it did not come to a vote.
When negotiations conclude and they do hopefully pass, the reforms will give higher education institutions, such as the AIM, even more autonomy and flexibility to work to their strengths, meet the needs of their students and to meet the needs of the businesses that employ their graduates.
These reforms to higher education will spread opportunities to more students.
This includes students wanting to prepare for the challenges of the business world – regardless of what stage of life they are at, where they are from and whether they choose to study at university or a private higher education institution.
I was very pleased to see Daniel support of the Government’s approach to deregulation recently when he wrote in The Australian.
And he wrote that:
“Deregulation will dovetail with a historic shift in education from a focus on course-producers to course-consumers and that students will become more alert to the value of money”.
AIM’s support reflects what we are hearing from all the higher education peak bodies that support the need for reform.
This week we’ve seen continuing strong statements urging the Senate to support the reforms – with amendments – from both university and non-university higher education providers, surprisingly Universities Australia, Regional Universities Network, Innovative Research Universities, the Australian Technology Network and the Group of Eight all of those organisations representing our universities are urging the Senate to pass the legislation.
It is quite an achievement to unite the University sector behind a policy. And of course there have also been calls in recent weeks from some of the non-university higher education providers. TAFE Directors Australia, the Council of Private Higher Education, the Australian Council of Private Education and Training.
So it is disappointing the Opposition appear to want to ignore the overwhelming support for the higher education reforms – with amendments – from the leaders of higher education around Australia.
Spreading opportunity to more students
All of these representative bodies stress the necessity of the reforms to ensure access for students, and especially students from disadvantaged backgrounds, to a good quality higher education system.
Access and equity is embedded in our reforms in a number of different ways.
For the first time in our history, any Australian who enrols in an accredited undergraduate course at any registered higher education institution will have tuition directly subsidised by the Federal Government.
This includes higher education students at public and private universities, TAFEs and private education colleges.
Students enrolled in higher education diplomas and advanced diplomas as well as associate degrees and bachelor degrees will be supported.
The expansion of demand-driven Commonwealth funding to students studying these courses recognises their value, both as opportunities in themselves, but also as pathways to bachelor degrees.
By 2018 there will be an additional 80 000 higher education students per year supported by the Commonwealth.
I also understand that many of you will be interested in how our higher education reforms might specifically impact on the Australian Institute of Management.
Students who are currently paying full-fees for higher education accredited undergraduate courses at AIM stand to benefit from the Government’s changes.
Following implementation of the our reforms, AIM will be eligible to receive Australian Government funding for Australian students enrolled in these courses.
These additional students, like all Commonwealth supported higher education students, won’t have to pay a cent up front. They won’t have to pay anything until they earn more than $50 000 a year.
Reforming the HECS scheme will mean a level playing field for students, no matter where they choose to study.
We will remove all HECS loan fees currently imposed on some students undertaking higher education and vocational education and training.
Because it just isn’t fair that some students have to pay loan fees while others at public institutions do not.
These are the 25 per cent loan fee students must pay to receive a loan for undergraduate courses of study under FEE-HELP; and the 20 per cent loan fee that applies to students taking out a full fee loan under VET FEE-HELP. The lifetime limits on these schemes are also being removed.
Removing this highly inequitable VET FEE HELP loan fee will mean that on average students will benefit by around $1,600.
AIM and its students will benefit from all of these measures especially given its new status as a VET FEE HELP provider.
Across Australia, students who benefit from the extension of Commonwealth support will include those from disadvantaged backgrounds, more students from rural and regional Australia and Australians who require more support to succeed at university.
Mature age students who are interested in a pathway into higher education, or who are looking to re-skill and change their skill set to align with the changing economy, will also benefit.
Commonwealth Scholarship scheme
Under the Government’s reforms, students from disadvantaged backgrounds will also have access to the largest Commonwealth Scholarship fund in Australia’s history.
Needs-based scholarships will help students to meet the costs of living as well as providing fee exemptions, mentoring, tutorial support and other assistance at critical points in their study.
The scheme will mean Australia’s smartest students will be supported to receive the best possible education no matter what their background or where they are from.
In fact on Monday the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence suggested that a third of their undergraduates would benefit from scholarships under the reforms – up from 700 students to 9,000 students at one university alone.
The Greens suggest that higher education institutions can’t be trusted to do the right thing by students.
But the announcement by the University of Sydney this week shows us The Greens are wrong again.
We believe autonomy and freedom for higher education institutions is a fundamental part of being able to appropriately meet student needs.
The Government’s higher education reforms will give Australian higher education institutions the freedom and autonomy to be more strategic in their education offerings.
Autonomy and freedom for higher education institutions
AIM’s new online MBA programme is an example of what Australian higher education institutions can achieve by being innovative.
Institutions will be able to make informed choices about what courses they deliver, what students they take, what teaching methods they use, what fees they set, what scholarships they provide and what support services they offer.
Global competition and online education
Our reforms also seek to ensure that Australian higher education does not get left behind in increasing global competition.
Without changes to our higher education system, higher education institutions have limited prospects of competing successfully with the best in Europe and North America and the fast developing institutions in Asia.
For Australia’s higher education institutions to keep up with our global competitors, embracing new technologies is critical.
This is because technology has changed the way people access information and knowledge. Technology impacts on how students learn and has driven the expansion of online education.
Online education services make it possible for students to access content experts on demand, and brainstorm with fellow students.
Technology also creates enormous opportunities for making higher education more widely available to Australian and international students.
The Government has identified technology-enhanced learning as a priority for the Office of Learning and Teaching.
Further work in this area will help to develop evidence and support for online education that Australian higher education institutions will be able to use when making decisions about the types of courses they offer.
As a result of our reforms, students will experience improved teaching and learning from a wider range of courses that compete for their interests.
The Government’s reforms will result in Australia’s higher education institutions competing to attract students. This will drive quality in higher education and when institutions compete for students, students are the winners.
We are also working to produce new, clear information for students and families about the quality of courses and institutions they are considering.
There will be more information about how successful previous graduates have been at finding jobs and what other students and employers think of the course.
This will be in the form of the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching – known as QILT –which detail the performance of each private and public higher education institution.
Not only will this information help students in their choices of course and higher education institution, it will enable Australia to compare its performance in higher education against the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
We envisage a new website presenting this and other information will start to become available online over the coming months.
The Government is also upholding quality of higher education by ensuring that the body responsible for ensuring quality in the sector – the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency - focuses on its most important activities - protecting students and the quality and reputation of Australian higher education.
Institutions will need to demonstrate their ongoing academic quality and prove that their courses and business processes meet the highest set of standards.
Representatives from the Australian Council of Private Education and Training gave evidence at the recent Senate Committee hearings into the reform package. They said:
A market driven system under the purview of a regulator with teeth such as TEQSA provides a recipe for a forward-thinking and student-centric smorgasbord of choice for students.
AIM’s online MBA programme – importance of flexible delivery
The Institute of Management’s Business School has taken the initiative to make the most of new technologies and adapted its award-winning traditional face-to-face MBA programme to an online form.
This will make the course accessible to many more potential students and increases AIM’s national and international competiveness.
The course has the potential to meet the needs of a variety of students and their learning styles.
Students can complete the course in their own time. This will suit workers and parents who need the flexibility to study in the evenings, as well as students in regional areas or even overseas who want to access an Australian qualification without leaving home.
This flexibility is particularly important to AIM students where, for example, in 2013, 95 per cent of students enrolled in the South Australian Division courses were part time and more than 90 per cent of students were over the age of 30.
AIM is accepting rolling enrolments. This challenges the usual model of intakes once or twice each year. This flexibility demonstrates AIM’s focus on the individual student, rather than arrangements that suit the institution only.
AIM’s online MBA course is a prime example of an Australian higher education institution being innovative, flexible and grasping their destiny.
I have no doubt your insight and investment will reap rewards for your institution and will further increase the number of students studying an MBA at a time when Australia’s need for quality managers and business leaders is growing.
Once passage of this legislation is secured through the Senate more AIM students will be able to enjoy the same Government support that public universities have enjoyed for decades.
I congratulate all those who contributed to the development of AIM’s new online MBA. And I wish your students all the best for their studies and future business careers.
Thank you very much.