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Key outcome from higher education reforms

Quality graduates for industry must be the key outcome from higher education reforms, according to Ai Group.

“The Federal Government’s announcement of a new university funding model and system provides overdue direction for a sector that plays a crucial role in underpinning and improving the competitiveness of our industries,” the Australian Industry Group’s Chief Executive, Innes Willox, said.

“Now more than ever it is crucial our graduates and researchers have the high-level skills and capabilities needed by industry as it constantly adapts to changes being brought about by digitalisation and global interconnectedness in what is being termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“For industry, a key aspect of the new model is the expansion of support for Work Experience in Industry units. It is pleasing to see this recognises Ai Group’s calls for closer integration between the sectors outlined in our 2016 policy document, Connecting for Productivity.

“With the faster pace of change in industry, authentic work environments need to be recognised as a foundation of experience for students. Closer and bolder industry-university connections are needed to increase graduates’ future-readiness. However, we must recognise that many employers, particularly smaller companies, experience resource barriers around taking on students and require support.

“It will be important to carefully monitor the impact that the proposed new system has on alignment to industry needs, growth in participation, the VET Sector, student access and information, and the development and maintenance of quality.

“In particular, the decision to expand the demand driven funding system to approved university sub-bachelor courses may significantly adversely impact the VET sector’s role in preparing job-ready graduates. The extent to which this decision diverts students away from the VET sector to universities is a major cause for concern.

“In order for our higher education system to deliver the skills necessary to drive industry, there needs to be certainty around the funding model, as well as attention to a number of other policy settings. It is a challenging exercise for the Federal Government in these economically constrained times to design a system which shares the burden fairly,” Mr Willox said.

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