Australia: minister renews call for performance funding

Statistics on dropouts prompt Simon Birmingham to make fresh calls on stalled package

November 17, 2017
Simon Birmingham
Source: PA
Simon Birmingham

Australia’s education minister has used new figures on dropout rates to bolster his case for performance-related funding to be introduced, part of a package of reforms stalled by opposition in the Senate.

The “rise in university first-year dropout rates has steadied but 15 per cent of new students starting in 2015 still failed to move successfully into second year”, The Australian reported of Department of Education statistics, which showed “that some universities continue to have a major attrition problem”.

La Trobe University jumped from 11.4 per cent to 13.5 per cent, Griffith University rose from 15.8 per cent to 17.0 per cent, the University of Southern Queensland went from 22.1 per cent to 24 per cent and the University of the Sunshine Coast moved from 20.1 per cent to 22.9 per cent,” the newspaper said.

Simon Birmingham, the education minister, said: “A small group of universities has shown a disproportionate increase in attrition over the past few years at the same time as they’ve boosted their enrolments. Those universities have questions to answer.”

The data reinforce “the need for the performance funding reforms the Turnbull government has proposed”, he added. “Performance funding would put student outcomes at the centre of learning.”

But Catriona Jackson, deputy chief executive of Universities Australia, said: “Australia’s universities have actually achieved something extraordinary – while vastly expanding access, attrition rates remain broadly where they were when a university education was limited to the privileged few.”

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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