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Australia – HE reform gains more tangible shape

The academic world caught the first glimpse of the reforms meant to re-shape Australia’s higher education system when Federal Education Minister Julia Gillard outlined, at the beginning of this month, government’s first response to the Bradley Report (for further details on the latter see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, January 2009). The minister announced some of the reforms at a conference organised by Universities Australia, welcoming the review headed by Professor Denise Bradley and pledging to implement even some of its most controversial recommendations.

For now, it seems that the government will comply with the recommendations primarily regarding universities' funding. In contrast with the present and the past, funding will “follow the student” from 2012, when Australian universities will start being financed on student demand. However, this will not set a voucher-system for the Australian higher education. The second recommendation foreseen to reach the status of reform is the creation of a national regulatory and quality agency for higher education, which is, among others, to establish objective and comparable quality and performance benchmarks.

The outlined reforms seem promising indeed. But as the education minister announces that they will not affect universities earlier than 2012 (one year after the current government’s term of office ends), their fate remains uncertain.

Julia Gillard speech