The Federal Government has released a report by the Higher Education Standards Panel on ways to improve the outcomes and prospects of higher education students in Australia.
“We want students to make informed study choices, to be engaged and supported throughout their studies and ultimately complete their higher education qualifications,” Minister for Education and Training Birmingham said.
The report, “Improving retention, completion and success in higher education”, acknowledges that rates of attrition, or student loss, is an issue that has concerned government and institutions for decades. However, it notes that although these rates have been “relatively stable” for over a decade, with many institutions investing significantly to support their students, some institutions are more successful than others at retaining students.
Failures in Australian education at all levels have come increasingly under the spotlight in the last couple of years, highlighted by several poor statistical showings. In June 2017 a United Nations report ranked Australia 39 out of 41 countries in levels of quality and inclusion education for children.
In August 2017, youth career coaching firm, TwoPointZero surveyed 1,000 16-24 year olds across Australia, and found a high percentage believed their schools or universities failed to prepare them for the world of work. In Victoria this was the response from 76% of young people.
Added to this is ongoing criticism of the effectiveness for primary and secondary students of both the annual NAPLAN skills tests, and the “Gonski 2.0” reform package.
The panel made eighteen recommendations, including:
improving the guidance available to school leavers and mature-age people prior to enrolment
providing of careers advice to students
introducing retention strategies with benchmarks
requiring institutions to have a strategy and implementation plan to improve overall student wellbeing
Minister Birmingham says the government has accepted all of the recommendations.
From 2020, additional funding for bachelor courses will be linked to performance outcomes. This, the minister says, “will encourage institutions to better support their students which ultimately benefits them and delivers better value for taxpayers”.