Abstracts: Quality and relevance: some policy responses

 

New directions being pursued by Australia in the area of higher education policy

Speaker: Colin Walters, Group Manager, Higher Education Group, Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, Australia

 

Following the Australian general election of 2008, the new government has established substantial changes of direction designed to enhance the quality
and accessibility of higher education in Australia. It has already moved to enhance access to higher education through a substantial increase in the availability of scholarships and the provision of fresh incentives to study science and maths subjects.  The principle of admission to courses on the basis of merit is being reinforced by the abolition of full fee paying places.  Deregulation of the sector has been advanced through moves to abolish compulsory workplace relations and governance requirements of providers, and the introduction of mission based funding compacts.  The capital needs of the tertiary education and research sectors are being addressed through the creation of an $11 billion education investment fund and an immediate $500 million capital injection for Universities.  In addition, significant national enquiries have been established into higher education and the national innovation system.  These developments will be described and an indication will be given of the initial directions which have been set by the Higher Education Review in consultations currently under way.

 

Looking for Performance Measures in Bologna–and Elsewhere

Speaker: Clifford Adelman, Senior Associate, Institute for Higher Education Policy (IHEP).

 

As the Bologna process moves toward at least interim completion status in 2010, the public and legislative appetite for simple, transparent indicators of change will intensify.  The question arises as to whether individual institutions, national systems, and the European Area as a whole will possess convincing information and evidence of positive change that is digestible by the major media nodes.

By one interpretation, these measures provide “accountability.”  That is, they are a form of public warrantee that the efforts of ministries, rectors’ conferences, Bologna follow-up groups, student unions, disciplinary organizations, and faculty have actually resulted in measurable differences—and in terms that both encompass and transcend the 10 action lines of the Bologna portfolio.  The quantifiable markers serve the ends of both reassurance and propaganda, and this paper holds that both are necessary for policies at the transnational, national, disciplinary, and institutional levels to proceed with a modicum of confidence.  Whether they demonstrate “accountability,” though, is another story.  As a contrasting and illustrative case, the past two years have witnessed U.S. higher education engage in a veritable orgy of number production in the name of “accountability” that, while fulfilling the conditions of propaganda, has not provided a warrantee for anything beyond superficial policy objectives.

The paper examines the comparative potential of qualification frameworks, Tuning, QAA benchmarking, and ECTS enhanced by level descriptors to yield genuine student-centered indicators of learning, and assesses current ministry capacities to provide critical data to document change within the flexibility and social dimensions action lines of Bologna.