That’s how competition works.

Greg Craven, University Vice Chancellor, is out and about. Scaremongering.

But if these bodies are funded at anything like the same rate as universities, there will be two realities, both ugly. One is that Treasury will pay through the nose for a whole range of goods that simply will not be delivered: research, academic workforce, governance and quality. Other Treasury ori­fices may also smart as these providers convert every lower qualification they can into a funded “higher education” course, with a potential budget blowout.

The second is that as alternative providers use these grossly inflated subsidies to artificially lower their own prices, universities outside the sacred ring of sandstone with its premium charging capacity gradually will be forced to shed all these “extras” to compete.

The effect will be that the “mighty middle” of the university sector — the ATNS, the great outer suburbans and the quality regionals — will go quietly into that good night of being colleges of (slightly) advanced education.

Ye of little faith.

Well – his first prediction is likely to be true. This is going to be very expensive and without fundamental governance reforms, and I mean fundamental, it could turn very ugly.

His second prediction may or may not work out the way he thinks. I agree there will be winners and losers, but I’m not convinced that the G8 will all be winners and the ATNs and regionals all losers. It will depend on the quality of management in universities. The kind of authoritarian managerialism that currently infests the system will get priced in a competitive environment and those institutions that don’t rapidly change their ways and discard the peter-principle managerialists will be going quietly into the night.

As an aside – I did enjoy this comment:

On the upside, [Pyne] is dealing with a group of people who would sell their own parents, let alone their colleagues, for a handful of beans.

In a previous life I was an administrator and in a staff meeting one of the peons shouted that I’d sold my soul to the Pro-Vice Chancellor. To which I replied, “No peon, I’ve sold your soul to the PVC”.

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32 Responses to That’s how competition works.

  1. ar

    will go quietly into that good night of being colleges of (slightly) advanced education.

    He probably thinks that anyway…

  2. Stateless, free and happy

    “quality of management in universities” and therein lies the problem.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Well if the G8 behave anything like my old uni they should be the ones converted to colleges of slightly advanced education:

    Union bid to end war over BDS

    THE head of the national academic union will intervene to try to stop its Sydney University branch from moving towards a boycott of Israel.

    Infighting on the issue this week led to the resignation of the union’s branch vice-president.

    Increasing support among staff for the boycott, divestment, sanctions campaign has split the campus branch of the National Tertiary Education Union and led to harsh criticism of branch committee members who oppose the union backing BDS. Support among a section of faculty for BDS has been galvanised by attacks on academic Jake Lynch, who is a strong advocate for the global boycott campaign and subject of a court action by Israeli legal activist group Shurat HaDin.

    And this is on the back of the shameful treatment given separately to Julie bishop and Christopher Pyne at the same uni in the last couple of weeks.

    Kindergartens behave better, and the education you get at them is probably superior too.

    One thing’s for sure: those wankers are not getting a bequest out of this former student. Ever.

  4. Dr.Sir Fred Lenin

    Defund ALL arts,humanities and lawtrade faculties,you want to be one of those ,you pay for it ,use money saved on medicine and health studies,,engineering and construction,and Real science no gullible warning rubbish.Make Australia a wanker free zone ,ban commo/green/ soshalism.

  5. .

    Can we send DrSirFred to get a BA in English? Punctuation, FFS…

    The smaller universities have the most to gain here. They have the most courses to open up to be offered, the most to make from charging and the least amount of subsidies right now.

    Fat lazy superannuated VHUs in the big unis are probably packing shit into cans right now.

  6. wreckage

    Defund ALL arts,humanities and lawtrade faculties

    They’re very cheap faculties to run anyway, with the exception of fine art.

  7. stackja

    will go quietly into that good night of being colleges of (slightly) advanced education.

    Below seems shows good night is near.

    http://www.australianuniversities.com.au/rankings/
    (added 6th March 2014)
    The ‘Reputation Rankings’ system was invented by Times Higher Education so it could release a ranking scale twice per year instead of annually like its competitors. THE claims it is based on the subjective opinions of over 16,000 responses from senior academics in 150 countries.
    The Australian universities have not performed very well in the 2014 rankings with only the University of Melbourne remaining relatively stable while the other 5 which were in the top 100 in 2013 all dropping down the table including Monash dropping out altogether.
    Key Features For Australia:
    2014 THE Times Higher Education World University Reputation Rankings – Australian University Rankings:
    Australia loses one its top 100 entrants with Monash dropping out making a total of 5 remaining
    University of Melbourne has a small fall back to 43
    Australian National University has a big drop from 42 to 61-70
    University of Sydney drops from 49 to 61-70
    University of Queensland drops from 71-80 to 81-90
    UNSW drops from 81-90 to 91-100
    Monash drops out (from 91-100 in 2013)

  8. motherhubbard'sdog

    Seems to me that most (all?) universities these days, along with the public service at all levels of government, have gravely mistaken quantity of management for quality of management.

  9. Tekweni

    In Brisbane Griffiths University is frequently called Grifftafe. One of my kids (UQ graduate) refused point blank to do a post grad diploma at Griffiths despite it being closer to home. Looks like even the potential market for some universities are making strong decisions about perceived quality.

  10. Johno

    Defund ALL arts,humanities and lawtrade faculties,you want to be one of those ,you pay for it ,use money saved on medicine and health studies,,engineering and construction,and Real science no gullible warning rubbish.Make Australia a wanker free zone ,ban commo/green/ soshalism.

    Just defund taxpayer subsidies to higher education. There’s no justification for it and the governance problems that Sinclair alludes to are caused by the need for central planning whenever taxpayer funding is involved.

    If government has to get involved, then it should be through income contingent loans, but on a commercial basis. No subsidy!

  11. Alfonso

    Mr Market is still in shackles Greg…..but he’s coming to get you.

  12. University rankings are a load of rubbish. They have nothing to do with the ability to teach students.

    I hear that a British university hires retired top scholars just to boost their rankings.

  13. Every dog has its day

    So the big boys (G08) have been slipping in the rankings. Well, stop funding them. They have had their chance and funding.

    On the other hand, Australia has several younger universities in the top 100 under 50 years old:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2014/one-hundred-under-fifty

    So, why not reallocate funding to the younger players? By now, the Go8 should be able to look after themselves.

  14. gabrianga

    Sorry to break ranks but is anyone else having problems with Bolt’s blog? I am receiving 29/5/2014 comments when logging on.

    Have a good one.

  15. Walter Plinge

    Sorry to break ranks but is anyone else having problems with Bolt’s blog? I am receiving 29/5/2014 comments when logging on.

    Bolta and Blair have been broken all day (meaning UK time; it’s 3.25 a.m. in Melbourne as I write).

  16. MiltonG

    The self-described “mighty middle” unis will be hiring ex-K-Tel marketing gurus next.

    Just imagine – a cohort of uni students tucking into their baked beans with shiny new steak knives.

  17. Bruce of Newcastle

    And hot on the heels of the other stupid and disgusting things that Sydney Uni is doing, now they’ve announced their fees will double. And they are blaming Pyne.

    Sydney Uni fees to more than double

    The Uni of Western Sydney by contrast announced a couple days ago they would freeze fees for 2014.

    I hope there is a mass exodus from the Kremlin of City Road to the little uni that tried.

  18. entropy

    Nineteen posts and nobody has mentioned “Dawkins Unis’ which have apparently picked up a new acronym (ATNS).

  19. Tel

    My personal feeling is that there isn’t much economy of scale to be had in teaching. There is a lot of economy to be had by putting the teaching materials online and letting people study at their own rate. This should favour smaller shops with more willingness to be flexible.

  20. Anthony S Adams

    We’ve got to stop funding perpetual students! Why should PAYE taxpayers fund people that just want to sit on their bums all day / every day in the guise of learning!

  21. David

    We’ve got to stop funding perpetual students!

    Too bloody right ASA. I recently had cause to interview a bearded wanker who is in year 8 of a 3 year degree. He was quite miffed when I suggested he should get of his arse and become a productive member of society. I don’t think that was on his agenda.

    Result was his application to join a friend’s company was rejected.

  22. David

    Bugger that should have been “get off his arse “.

  23. MemoryVault

    Bugger that should have been “get off his arse “.

    Well he would have to, wouldn’t he, if there’s buggering involved.

  24. David

    if there’s buggering involved
    :-)

  25. Leo G

    More scaremongering, predictably, via the Fairfax press:-

    Students will be hit with double fees for some arts degrees and at least 55 per cent rises for engineering and science degrees at the University of Sydney under the federal government’s controversial overhaul of higher education.
    An analysis of the cost implications to the university from the government’s planned 20 per cent reduction in funding for university places shows fees for communications, social science, environmental and engineering degrees will soar.

    The predictions are similar at the University of Melbourne where vice-chancellor Glyn Davis expects fees for engineering degrees will rise by at least 60 per cent and science degrees by about 54 per cent.

    The Fairfax article does not give any details about the analysis- based on unfinalised modelling- for the Uni of Sydney, nor give the author’s name. The similar “analysis” for the Uni of Melbourne is described as being from an email from the Vice-Chancellor to other staff members.

  26. notafan

    posed this on open forum should have posted here
    Instead of a higher threshold for HECS repayments how about having a HECs levy that is similar to the medicare levy? Gillard had no hesitation upping the Medicare levy for everyone for NDIS, so half a percent for your HECs debt from a lower start point might remove some of the disincentive to earn higher incomes. And it can’t be electorally unpalatable can it?
    Still think HECs should be limited to one undergradute graduate degree and not available to retirees. If you want to do further studies get a scholarship, sponsored by an employee or pay for it yourself.

  27. Leo G

    “Instead of a higher threshold for HECS repayments how about having a HECs levy that is similar to the medicare levy? “

    Or a licensing system for university degrees, with annual fees collected by the Commonwealth on behalf of each University, stratified by School and degree type. If licences degree holders lapse on their fee payments, their degrees are suspended and HECS is activated to cover a proportion of the cost of their specific coursework.

  28. Where I live in the bush many young people go off to a regional uni to study Music or Sports Science. I like the odd tune, and I frequently watch cricket and rugby league on the television…so I can see why someone would want to study those things rather than, say, dentistry.

    You get the odd smartie who goes to the smoke to study something with a name like Post-Modern Gender Semiotics. Buggered if I know what stuff like that’s for. Then there is the great flood of students to study Earth Sciences. With only a tiny fraction of the oceans visited and almost none of what’s under our feet examined you do wonder what they do in “Earth” Sciences. I mean, curiosity about the physical world has plummeted to the extent that an ice expert can get stuck in sea ice he didn’t know was there (but everyone else and his dog did!). You get climate boffins who have never stuck their head out of a window – but sure know their way around a non-Kardashian model.

    Funding cuts and fee increases, eh? Now, let me think…

  29. DM OF WA

    Our universities may not technically be an oligopoly but they are surely a cartel of ivory towers run by an academic oligarchy!

  30. Tintarella di Luna

    …Post-Modern Gender Semiotics

    Hi there Robert any idea what the ATAR is to get into that course? I think it was Mr Rusty who came up with a few rather exotic courses the other day including Pubic Hair Topiary in the interest of inclusion.

  31. .

    In a previous life I was an administrator and in a staff meeting one of the peons shouted that I’d sold my soul to the Pro-Vice Chancellor. To which I replied, “No peon, I’ve sold your soul to the PVC”.

    Shit. Doomlording at its finest.

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