Smart idea sets local universty free

COFFS Harbour's university now has the freedom to grow, following the government's decision to let student demand determine where public dollars will flow.

In the past universities have received funding for an allocated number of places but Education Minister Julia Gillard announced yesterday that from 2012, the caps will be removed and universities will be able to decide how many students they admit to each course - and the more students a university enrols, the more funding it gets.

Southern Cross University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Clark was in Canberra when Ms Gillard made the announcement and he said it was 'great news' for SCU.

“We can now choose to grow or shrink where the student demand is,” Prof. Clark said.

“We can grow staff and students, secure more funding, and SCU is better off as a result.”

The move is a result of the Bradley Review into higher education, which called for a deregulated or demand-driven system to reverse a decade-long decline in university enrolments.

Uncapping places allows the government to push to have 40 per cent of all Australians aged 25 to 34 obtaining an undergraduate degree by 2025, a figure that, although deemed ambitious by some, is seen by Prof. Clark as a challenge.

“I'm delighted that a goal has been set, especially one that values degrees and gives universities focus,” he said.

Between 1996 and 2006, Australia slipped from seventh to ninth in terms of attainment rates among developed countries.

“Too few young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are enrolling, and the task of overhauling the higher education sector is far greater and more urgent than at any time in our history,” Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard also foreshadowed the establishment of a new regulatory body to look at standards and to ensure universities researched the areas they teach in.

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