higher education

Budget 2024: The government must support universities, students – and research

This is the third in a series of posts on the 2024 Budget. Today: higher education by the University of Melbourne’s Abigail Payne, director of the Melbourne Institute. Last Friday: early childhood care and education by the University of New England’s Marg Rogers, postdoctoral fellow at the Manna Institute Last Thursday: school funding by Curtin University’s Matthew P. Sinclair, a lecturer in education policy.

I approached this year’s budget with excitement and with trepidation. 

Why excitement? This budget offered the potential to embrace some of the more positive insights from the Universities Accord Report.  Trepidation? Would we see the government fail to address the more challenging aspects of working at a university in Australia.

I had hoped to write about the promise of renewed investment in research, in the financing of universities, and supporting the important role that universities play for progressing innovation and delivering solutions that will support strong economic growth for Australia. 

Frankly not much was announced about any important investment that must be made to strengthen and invest in our universities.  

A quick search on terms revealed that the term “student” appeared 109 times, higher education 27 times, university 27 times, VET 25 times, TAFE 7 times, science 35 times, and research 65 times. This blog will focus on the budget announcements for addressing enrolment and the servicing of debt.  

Importance of Increasing Tertiary Education Attendance

Let me start with the promising information. A goal of creating a highly skilled workforce that includes a tertiary attainment target of 80 percent by 2050. This is both laudable and ambitious.  As Figure 1 depicts, Australia is ranked 10th amongst OECD countries for educational attainment (tertiary or higher) for individuals aged 25 to 34. The current rate for those living in Australia is 49 percent for men and is 63 percent for women. 

Is increasing access to universities only about the money?

The budget also recognizes the importance of broadening access to encourage more underrepresented students to attend university. This importance will include a commitment for more needs-based funding.  What this means for the budget is vague.  And is the solution to achieving both an 80 percent target and broadening access simply about money? Increased financial commitments were announced in the budget: $1.1 billion over five years for expanded access and $350.3 million to expand access to free university courses. 

Of course, money matters. 

But research has shown, time and time again, the returns to further education are positive. That has not wavered over time. Why are we not observing high demand for university places? 

Increasing educational attainment must include considerations: how we encourage students to prepare for pursuing these degrees; how we support our schools to deliver what is needed for success in university; and what we can do to support growth in the tertiary system. All that, while maintaining high standards to ensure graduating students are best prepared for opportunities that will require higher levels of skill and knowhow.

Addressing accumulated debt – will changing indexation solve the problem?

As has been well reported, as tuitions have risen, so has student debt. Figure 2 illustrates the dramatic increase in student debt based on tax data obtained from the Australian Tax Office, computed based on the year of the last observed loan for a student, reported in real ($2022) dollars. When HECS/HELP was introduced, the average accumulated debt at the end of schooling was $10,000 in today’s dollars.  Today, the average is nearly $40,000. If we look at remaining debt after five, ten, and fifteen years (ignoring those who have fully repaid their loan), those with debt after ten years are still not making much of a dent in repaying the debt.

Increasing debt, and in more recent years, increasing effective interest on this debt has risen. This means that it is taking longer to repay debt.  Figure 3 illustrates this fact.  Using tax data and the loan information from the Australian Tax Office, we depict the share of students who have repaid their student loan debt after five, ten, and fifteen years, respectively, based on the year of the last year a loan was received.  For example, if a student enrols in university in 2000 and takes out three years of loans between 2000 and 2002, the student is identified as having received her last year of loans in 2002.

What’s changed

When tuition was on the order of $2,000 (nominal) per year (1989 to 1995), approximately 30 percent of the students had repaid their loans within five years and 78 percent had repaid the loan within ten years. Fast forward to more recent periods: only 20 percent of students have repaid their loans within five years. Only 55 percent have repaid their loans within 10 years.  As debt has increased so has the time to repay. 

The budget has recognized the challenges of loan repayment. They have announced that the effective interest rate for these loans will change. The rate will be the lower of either the Consumer Price Index or the Wage Price Index. This use of different measures to capture “inflation” is welcomed. 

Are the cuts to debt fair?

The Government has also indicated it will cut $3 billion in student debt, providing relief for those with existing debt. That’s welcome. But is it fair for those who no longer hold debt but paid off their loans in recent years?  One should also consider the potential signal it serves regarding opportunities to pay off one’s loan faster than is required. And finally, what about those who have never held a loan but are struggling financially?

Confusions around tuition rates and debt repayment – does it cause a student to pause before enrolling?

Revisiting the question of how to increase participation in tertiary education, we should think about the role increasing debt plays on the decision to pursue a university degree. The income-contingent loan repayment scheme should be applauded for creating a structure to encourage participation while deferring payment for that participation.  

What started as a simple concept, however, has become convoluted. It may lead to confusion and a decision not to pursue further education. As Figure 4 illustrates, tuition has not only increased but there are differential tuition rates depending on the program of study.  This aspect makes sense if the tuition rate reflects the cost of delivering the given program of study. This simple depiction of three or four rates, however, quickly gets confusing when a student pursues courses in different programs. Once enrolled, depending on course selection, a student can end up facing differential course fees, making it even more challenging to understand the total cost of a degree before enrolling in university. 

Source: Parliamentary Library based on Department of Education,  https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp2021/Chronologies/HigherEducation

Potentially even more confusing for a student who wants to be fully informed before university registration is the repayment rates. The basic principle is that repayment is tied to earnings. With the minimum repayment amount equalling a percentage of one’s income.

But the percentage and thresholds vary across incomes and over time. Figure 5 depicts the minimum repayment rates. These have changed both with respect to what is owed as well as the income threshold for computing the amount owed. Given the repayment rates can adjust on a year to year basis, it would be very challenging to figure out at the time of university registration how long it might take to repay a student loan. 

Source: Parliamentary Library based on Department of Education,  https://www.aph.gov.au/About_Parliament/Parliamentary_Departments/Parliamentary_Library/pubs/rp/rp2021/Chronologies/HigherEducation

Encouraging greater participation and meeting 2050 targets

Encouraging greater participation in tertiary education must be more than making a proclamation. We can do more to invest in our institutions, to identify the factors that contribute to a decision to pursue a degree or diploma beyond secondary school, and to provide transparent mechanisms for capturing tuition and loan repayment. To encourage greater participation in tertiary education, information on costs and expectations for repayment should be clear and easy to understand. 

Government has made a move towards reducing the costs associated with loan indexation. It has also provided temporary loan forgiveness, and is investing to promote greater access to university. But it should do more to embrace and address the challenges students AND universities face.

Abigail Payne is the Director & Ronald Henderson Professor at the Melbourne Institute: Applied Economic & Social Research at the University of Melbourne. Her research is wide- ranging and includes the effects of policy on educational outcomes, schooling transitions, gender differences, and student performance; the determinants of poverty and disadvantage and the mechanisms for reducing poverty; and charitable giving and the role played by nonprofits in service provision.  

Graduate employment: Right now, the ‘fair-go’ isn’t fair enough

A cornerstone of Australian values is the idea of a ‘fair go’: equality of opportunity regardless of personal circumstances. However, when it comes to higher education, decades of equity data reveal how university systems have failed to ensure this ‘fair go’. Nowhere is this more noted than in relation to gaining employment post-graduation.

Getting a job after completing a university degree is rarely straightforward. Only a minority of students walk straight from the graduating stage into permanent employment. However, students from equity backgrounds experience markedly different post-graduation trajectories compared to their peers from non-equity groups. In Australia,  students from a poorer background, living with a disability or with a first language other than English, consistently encounter ‘labour-market disadvantage’  with lower levels of employment 6 months after graduation. This is particularly noted for those living with disability, with a full-time employment rate of 68.4%, compared to 79.5% for those with no reported disability.

Statistics only tell one part of the story

Disparities in securing employment or job conditions are only some of the inequities experienced. Recent research indicates that those graduates from more diverse backgrounds also 1) have less opportunity to achieve ‘high status’ professional roles (e.g. medicine, law), 2) report differences in hourly wages and also, 3) experience more complex, interrupted pathways to employment.

There are many reasons for these differences not least of which is these graduates may not have access to necessary, but often obscure, networks or information needed to obtain professional roles. For example, graduates who were the first in their families or communities to attend university do not have a ‘guide on the side’ who can provide insight or advice about the fundamentals of job seeking. In recent research, graduates repeatedly told me how this was a hidden, but significant, barrier. For example, one survey respondent explained how seeking employment after graduation was like “navigating uncharted water”, another reflected on the difficulty of “understanding […] the white collar world” and sadly one defeatedly stated: “I was very ignorant in what came after.”

What’s the difference?

In their reflections, there was a perception of “difference” that was implicitly and overtly experienced within the workplace, tied up with their family background and biography:

Perhaps if someone else in my family had graduated and embarked upon a professional career they also could have given me advice about building the foundations early, such as doing internships and volunteering in places.

What this and other quotes indicated was that while these students had received a university degree, there was more practical and applied knowledges needed to achieve their end goals. Not only did they need to aim for good grades but also, participate in internships, gain volunteer experience, network with future employers and proactively engage with the careers services on-campus. As one student so eloquently summed up, many ‘assumed the degree would be all I needed’.

The promises of university education were not delivered for some and the frustration and anger of this situation was palpable in survey responses:

The universities just pretend that getting that piece of paper is all you need, like they are selling ice cream. (Female Survey Respondent)

We need to think about entry and exit

The last two decades have seen huge changes to the university sector with increasing numbers and diversity in our student populations. While policy and procedures have engaged with the implications of this as students consider and enter university, those who are exiting the higher education system have not attracted a similar level of attention. We are experiencing a highly competitive job market with a global oversupply of graduates and this, combined with the need to be ‘employable’ means that those students with less access to necessary material and personal resources may be at a marked disadvantage within the graduate employment market.

The recent Accord Interim Discussion paper proposes a range of actions designed to ensure that the skills and knowledge developed by students are readily transferable to the workplace. The paper calls for a ‘modular, stackable, integrated approach to course design’ complemented by a framework for coordinated work placements as well as ‘earn while you learn’ and other financial support for undergraduates.

What they need

But what the graduates in this study indicated was a need for more practical and applied careers-related support deliberately targeted at that final transition: the move between university into employment. Suggested initiatives included proactive careers advice contextualised to different stages of the degree journey; ongoing professional mentoring that commenced early in the degree and extended beyond graduation; opportunities to have meaningful contact with professionals with similar (equity) backgrounds to their own; and explicit teaching about protocols and expectations within a professional workplace environment. Those changes are not difficult but such initiatives do require a ‘shift’ in mindset across the university sector – to one that more readily embraces and desires a relationship with students that extends beyond the graduation stage.

Sarah O’Shea is the dean, graduate research at Charles Sturt University, a Churchill Fellow, principal fellow of the Higher Education Academy and leading an ARC Discovery Project exploring the persistence behaviours of first in family students.

Working future: Now, how to build a bridge

The Federal Government’s white paper Working Future argues for closer cooperation between vocational education and training (VET) and higher education (HE). The goal is a seamless array of lifelong education opportunities for Australians. 

Here’s the problem. VET and HE don’t always work well together, prompting commentators to characterise the Australian tertiary sector as a ‘binary’. But that’s not my only concern – the white paper reflects a degree of amnesia about the history of the sector. The silos of VET and HE are largely creations of government policy over several decades.

The call for a more effective tertiary sector runs up against a complex of differences: dimensions of curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, teacher preparation, regulation, funding and marketisation. These individual differences have sprung from government policy, even in relation to fundamentally educational categories.

One of these differences stands out as fundamental for both educators and policy makers. Curriculum is fundamental because it expresses the meaning of educational intentions and experience. In the context of Australian tertiary education and its problematic binary structure, the importance of curriculum is amplified. 

On one side of the tertiary binary, a single curriculum model has been successfully imposed on providers and teachers while the other side has managed to avoid it. On the VET side, ‘competency-based training’ (CBT) was implemented as a system-wide model for all government-funded provision. Its justification was economic and social. In the 1980s, the Labour Government initiated sweeping reforms to reposition Australia as a global economic competitor across its portfolios, including VET. Higher education was targeted too, but it effectively resisted imposition of a CBT approach.  

The upshot was that HE was left to follow its own lights in regard to curriculum. Of course, there are broad structures that impinge on curriculum in HE, such as the Australian Qualifications Framework, but their level of prescription is modest, at least in terms of implications for actual curriculum. 

The lack of centralised control over HE curriculum turned out to be a boon for that side of the tertiary sector. It means HE providers can exercise maximum creativity in relation to curriculum, and rest on the expertise and insight of their teachers and researchers to craft learning experiences that directly reflect the requirements of disciplines, study areas and professions with a stake in HE. 

Even where standards are produced by professional associations and tied to program accreditation, HE providers have latitude to meet those standards in unique and innovative ways and the conceptualisation of standards is specific to the industry involved (rather than a generic model like CBT).

It is worth pointing out that if professional standards become too prescriptive then curriculum quality suffers and teachers may become alienated. 

That is precisely what has happened in VET. CBT can be regarded as a highly prescriptive implementation of standards relating to industries served by that system. Instead of high-level expressions of essential capabilities such as those prepared by Engineers Australia and used in HE engineering programs, competency standards in VET are intricately detailed and include very specific requirements about what knowledge and skills are supposed to underpin competent performances and how those performances should be assessed. 

The curricular impact of adherence to such standards is hard to overstate. It is possible to imagine that very uninformed providers and teachers might benefit from that level of prescription, but for the bulk of educators in VET the imposition is frustrating and even demoralising. As such, the quality of the whole system may be compromised through overprescription of industry standards. 

But it takes educational expertise to untangle many of these issues. At the level of policy making, high levels of prescription may be reassuring.  Policy makers may find it difficult to trace ramifications for curriculum innovation and quality.

From a curriculum angle, an effective tertiary sector in Australia would require stepping back and considering how to find a productive balance between industry or professional standards on the one hand, and curriculum innovation on the other. 

Critical here is the level of prescription attached to standards. Those representing industries and professions should leave educational decisions to those with educational expertise. As the VET experience demonstrates, it is easy for industry representatives to stray into the realm of curriculum decision-making and thereby impose constraints on educational innovation and quality that in turn undermine provider and teacher expertise and motivation. 

A more effective tertiary sector would be one where great care is taken to promote curricular creativity across both VET and HE. Winding back the curricular constraints implicit in the Australian implementation of CBT in VET is one way to address the binary of our tertiary sector. At the same time, those who work in HE should remain vigilant. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which standards for an area like Initial Teacher Education (ITE) become politicised and from there become more prescriptive and exert stronger influence over actual curriculum in ITE degrees. In a scenario like that, the quandary in which expert and caring educators in VET find themselves could become a reality for education academics responsible for ITE.

This Blog is based in part on a recent MCERA Webinar (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AsQKX6SoReU) and on a paper by Hodge, Guthrie, Jones and Waters currently under review. Contact Steven Hodge (s.hodge@griffith.edu.au) for a copy of the draft.

Steven Hodge is a member of the Griffith Institute for Educational Research (GIER) and of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Griffith University, where he is Director of the Master of Education and Graduate Certificate in Professional Learning programs. He is immediate past president of the Australasian Vocational Education and Training Association and key contributor to debate in Australian post-compulsory education.

Want to do a PhD now? Here’s what you should know

Research in schools is messy. Things change fast and decisions need to be made on the fly. As PhD students doing research in schools, we (Kate and Matt) learned that challenges quickly arise and that tough decisions need to be made.

Our PhD research took place in vastly different contexts. Kate went to Zimbabwe to research the proliferation of philanthropic edu-tourism, and Matt explored differences in the teaching of drama and maths at a school in a regional town in NSW. Despite these “worlds-away” classrooms, we experienced similar challenges and discovered a gap in the literature on education fieldwork for postgrad students.  

That’s what our new paper explores,and from that we have four key lessons for PhD students. 

Four key lessons

We started our PhDs by ‘going with the flow’ of doctoral study. This meant we designed our research with the support of our supervisors. We presented our research plans to a panel of academics. We gained ethics approvals to conduct our studies. We undertook recruitment procedures. We went into ‘the field’ to collect data at schools. Then the flow changed. 

Our paper explains how this early ‘flow’ became more like ‘rapids’ (Lonergan & Cumming, 2017) as we undertook classroom-based research in Australia and Zimbabwe.  

In our research, we faced challenges and had to act in the moment. One such moment was when the classroom teacher left the classroom Kate was observing. What do you do? If you leave the room, where do you go? If you choose to stay, how long do you wait for them to return? If the class begins to misbehave, do you step into a teacher role or do you stay silent? If, and how, do you have a discussion with the teacher and ask them not to do this in the future?  

Someone’s missing

In another example, the teachers participating in Matt’s study were both absent from school but failed to tell him beforehand. This encounter resulted in wasted time travelling to and from the school. It also highlighted that research involves adaptive responses and planning on-the-go.  

Together, our reflections throughout the paper shed light on some of the emotional challenges during fieldwork. Even though one of us was geographically close and the other was far away from our supervisors, we were both unable to access their knowledge in the moments of shifting plans.  

Four key lessons

Here are four key lessons we wish we knew before starting fieldwork: 

  1. Communication is key. Having clear expectations and conversations about the research with the school community is integral to the success of the research. Do not assume that everyone in the school community will understand the intricacies of your study – the reality is this is an ongoing part of the process.  
  2. Developing rapport with research participants is crucial. While it is important to ‘give back’ in research and avoid disruptions to schools, it is equally important to be on the same page with participants about your role/s within the research. 
  3. Plan for a range of different scenarios, be open to how you might negotiate them as they unfold. Anticipating changes to your research plan may help you cope when these changes happen and allow you to know which components of your research plan you are willing to change or remove.  
  4. Keep a diary. Your field notes are hugely valuable when it comes to writing up and reflecting on your research. And a daily diary reminds you of all the things you’ve achieved (big and little) when the going gets tough. 

Continued conversation

We hope that others find these key lessons useful in thinking more broadly about their data collection plans. We are also mindful doctoral students have a range of resources at their fingertips when preparing for fieldwork that should not be overlooked. PhD supervisors are vital in the learning and development of doctoral students. Methods textbooks abound. And, there is a range of very insightful blogs, such as The Thesis Whisperer and Patter. Our research brings attention to these resources and the need for continued conversations about fieldwork.  

Kathleen Smithers is a lecturer in the School of Education at Charles Sturt University, Australia. Kathleen has worked across a number of projects with a focus on the sociology of education and higher education. Her doctoral thesis investigated developmentourism in schools in Zimbabwe.

Matthew Harper is a PhD candidate and research assistant across a range of projects at the Teachers and Teaching Research Centre, School of Education, University of Newcastle, Australia. His doctoral thesis compares teaching practice and the student experience in high school mathematics and drama.

How to stop racism in class: burn it off

“You’re like the token black kid in the class”: the continued need for Indigenisation of curriculum to support Indigenous student university completion rates and stop racism

It is our hope that in 2023 The Voice referendum will bring change. We hope change will include adopting the many recommendations of national reports to improve higher education access, participation and completions for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Many Indigenous scholars and their non-Indigenous allies feel enormous frustration. Their voices are not heard. They are rendered silent by inaction to implement national recommendations. For example, the Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy outlined what universities should do. They should commit to having “processes that ensure all students will encounter and engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultural content as integral parts of their course of study, by 2020”. Important work is occurring in universities to embed Indigenous content within university courses but it has yet to be implemented strongly across all universities.


Indigenous Studies and Courageous Conversations

Symposium co-hosted by UQ and the Australia Academy of the Humanities. September 28 and 29, 2023.

What the Accord Interim Report says

The recent Accord Interim Report notes Indigenous students continue to be marginalised in universities and there is an urgent need to increase the numbers of Indigenous students undertaking university study. The Accord Interim Report also reported that Go8 universities were lagging behind in terms of Indigenous student enrolments. But high enrolment numbers of Indigenous students do not necessarily equate to completion of university studies. The national data indicates that, the nine-year completion rates for Indigenous students are 50 per cent — significantly below the 71 per cent for non-Indigenous students.

Stop racism in university classrooms

The impact of racism on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander student university experiences and completion rates can not be underestimated. 

Our research has found that racism and the lack of Indigenous perspectives in the curriculum are key barriers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students completing their degrees.

Many of the Indigenous graduates from five universities interviewed in our study reflected on their experiences in classrooms and their experiences of being asked by academics to speak on behalf of Indigenous people:

“It was mostly experiences like being called out in class as to speak to a universal Indigenous experience or being called out to act as a representative of a cultural ideal” (Bachelor of Arts graduate)

Graduates also spoke about experiences of racism from peers and staff:

“There is racism in classes … I had students go, ‘Oh, you must have got scholarships for coming here’ when they worked out that I was Indigenous, or ‘Oh, did you take a bridging pathway?’ ‘No, I actually got here the same way that a lot of people in this room got here’…” (Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts graduate)

“I guess the racism at a university like [this one] that is full of people with white fragility and white privilege, has always hung over my thinking around what I actually received from [this university]… People being blatantly racist and really showing their white fragility in the way they operated towards me” (Bachelor of International Relations graduate).

Why there is a need for further Indigenisation of curriculum to stop racism

Indigenisation of curriculum is one way to address racism. The Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017–2020 acknowledged the inherent value of Aboriginal peoples’ unique knowledge systems. Important work has been undertaken by universities to develop frameworks and design principles to guide Indigenisation of curriculum (e.g., Al-Natour and Fredericks, 2016; Bunda, 2022; Howlett et al., 2013). 

The process of Indigenising curriculum is complex, and numerous researchers have noted the institutional support required, the challenges of poorly taught curriculum that can reinforce stereotypes and resistance from students particularly from mandatory curriculum.

Many of the graduates we interviewed noted that much more work needs to be done within the universities they studied at to focus on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content and knowledges and draw further on Indigenous perspectives within the curriculum and content.

Where to from here?

Universities are still not necessarily a safe places for Indigenous students. Danger and a lack of cultural safety can be found in classrooms when Indigenous students are called out as “experts”, when peers question their identity and ask culturally insensitive questions, and when lecturers do not include “meaningful, appropriately developed and appropriately resourced” Indigenous content in curricula so that Indigenous students can see themselves in the curriculum.

Universities must continue to focus efforts towards educating academic staff and students to be more culturally competent through the inclusion of Indigenous perspectives within curriculum. Indigenisation of curriculum requires institutional support, and it also requires critical self-reflection by non-Indigenous educators. This is the only way to stop racism


As part of our larger research project, recommendations were developed for universities and include:

  • University academic staff should ensure their classrooms are strongly anti-racist and address any issues of racism within the classroom.
  • University leadership needs to ensure more cultural competency training opportunities for academic staff, professional staff, and students.
  • University faculties and academics should work collaboratively with Indigenous centre/unit staff and Indigenous academics to ensure Indigenous perspectives are strongly embedded in course curricula.

It is important to note that these recommendations are not particularly new and they echo previous recommendations. There is enormous frustration felt by many Indigenous scholars and their non-Indigenous allies whose voices are not heard. They are rendered silent by this inaction to implement national recommendations.

Collins-Gearing and Smith use the metaphor of the need to “burn off” the disciplines to Indigenise curriculum in order to “clean up the landscape so that new, transformative possibilities may grow”. Burning off continues to need to occur in universities to stamp out racism and clear the smoke to allow Indigenous students to see themselves within the curriculum.

From left to right: Bronwyn Fredericks is a professor and DVC Indigenous Engagement, University of Queensland. She tweets at @bronfredericks. Katelyn Barney, PhD, is a senior lecturer in the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Unit and the School of Music, University of Queensland. She tweets at @drkatelynbarney. Tracey Bunda is Professor of Indigenous Education, University of Queensland. Kirsten Hausia is Strategic Project and Engagement Coordinator, Murrup Barak, Melbourne Institute for Indigenous Development, University of Melbourne. Anne Martin is Director of Tjabal Centre, Australian National University. She tweets at @MartinAnne139. Jacinta Elston is affiliated with Monash University. She tweets at @JacintaElston. Brenna Bernardino is a research associate at LPC Consulting Associates and was a Research Assistant on the project. She tweets at @brennabernardino.

Patience, persistence and persuasion: the how-to of Indigenous curriculum practice by Susan Page

Be brave: how to Indigenise the curriculum by Alanna Kamp

How universities have become big business

Australian public universities have undergone extensive policy reforms since the 1980s, driven by neoliberal ideologies that emphasise free markets, competition, efficiency, and reduced state intervention. These reforms have redefined universities’ identity as corporatised organisations with commercial agendas, prioritising revenue generation over knowledge generation (Parker et al., 2023).  Traditional values of inclusivity, social cohesion, and social mobility have been challenged, with excellence redefined in terms of research output, innovative teaching approaches, world rankings, business partnerships, and attracting fee-paying students.

The impact was felt when the COVID-19 pandemic exposed these risks to public universities, as they experienced a drop in international student enrollments and funding challenges. Staffing was significantly affected, with limited government support (Guthrie et al., 2022).  This has prompted questions about the future strategies of university managements. We highlight the vulnerability of Australian universities to crises and emphasise the need for reimagining them as democratic and purposeful institutions (Martin-Sardesai et al., 2021).  We call for a reevaluation of the relationship between a university’s mission, its stakeholders, and those responsible for its administration, emphasising the importance of public consultation and engagement in shaping the future of higher education (Guthrie et al., 2022).

A shift in culture

Governments around the world have implemented policies aligned with New Public Management (NPM) in public service delivery, such as privatisation, contracting out, selling public assets, and reducing income taxes. They argue that these policies align with market principles and improve efficiency. This has led to a shift in university culture towards accounting, economising, and marketisation, prioritising skills over theoretical knowledge. NPM has also influenced the organisational structure of universities, with corporate practices and entities being favored.

In Australia, public universities have adopted a user-pays philosophy, market-driven pricing, and cost minimisation.  The Australian higher education system (AHES) follows a centralised policy, with public universities receiving funding from the Federal Government. The Minister of Education and Training regulates the number of universities and controls the number of students in each undergraduate course. Local students pay a higher education contribution fee, while universities can set fees for international students. International student fees play a crucial role in the funding strategy of Australian public universities, subsidising operations, teaching, and research expenses. 

Financial gains over resilience

Funding for higher education as a percentage of GDP has been declining, and the government grants only a portion of the sector’s total expenditures. Despite financial challenges, the number of students studying in Australia has been increasing, particularly international students from countries like China and India. Australia has a high proportion of international students compared to other countries. The management of Australian public universities has focused on short-term profit optimisation, prioritising financial gains over long-term adaptability and resilience. This has left the sector vulnerable to external shocks, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and strained relations with China. The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on Australia’s higher education system (AHES). The government implemented border closures and universities transitioned to online teaching, leading to the postponement or cancellation of campus events. The Federal Government did not provide additional financial support to universities during the pandemic.

The literature suggests that universities have willingly embraced the commodification of education and the adoption of accounting practices to align with government policies and VC’s business ambitions (Martin-Sardesai et al., 2017; Martin-Sardesai, 2016).  The proliferation of quantified metrics has become an end in itself, overshadowing broader societal values and objectives (Martin-Sardesai et al., 2021).  Overall, numbers and quantified metrics have become influential in shaping university processes and outcomes, emphasising commercialisation and performance over broader societal goals. In investigating the mechanisms behind this shift, identify that Australian public universities have undergone extensive policy reforms since the 1980s, driven by neoliberal ideologies that emphasise free markets, competition, efficiency, and reduced state intervention.

The emphasis is on the numbers

These reforms aim to transform universities into autonomous and entrepreneurial knowledge organisations, aligning them with the global knowledge economy. The implementation of these policies is supported by accountingisation, which emphasises performance measures and accountability.

These reforms have led to the privatisation, marketisation, and internationalisation of universities, following the principles of neoliberal economics. Traditional values of inclusivity, social cohesion, and social mobility have been challenged, with excellence redefined in terms of research output, innovative teaching approaches, world rankings, business partnerships, and attracting fee-paying students. The neoliberal agenda prioritises skills, applied knowledge, and productivity, dismissing humanistic, critical, and theoretical knowledge as irrelevant. Universities are seen as tools for training productive workers to support the knowledge economy and generate research impacts.

Traditional values challenged

While universities are public institutions, they are increasingly required to adopt accounting practices and performance measures, influenced by New Public Management (NPM) principles. NPM has shifted power relations within universities and introduced numerical forms of power, leading to changes in academics’ practices and thinking.  However, these reforms pose risks to the higher education sector, potentially eroding its critical voice, legitimacy, and transparency. The focus on improvement, efficiency, and standards needs to be balanced with a language of education rooted in ethics, moral obligations, and values. Overall, the reforms in Australian public universities reflect a larger global trend towards corporatisation and commercialisation, impacting the core values and purpose of higher education (Parker et al., 2023).

We are a warning to others

Our research has examined the changes in the higher education system of a country over four decades, focusing on its commercialisation and internationalisation. It discussed the influence of neoliberal philosophies and New Public Management (NPM) practices on universities. We identify the central role of accountingisation and marketisation in this transformation, suggesting it has occurred gradually and covertly. Governments have implemented policies to position higher education as a source of intellectual property and skills to enhance global competitiveness. We highlight the impact of external pressures on universities, including government regulations, professional norms, and market mechanisms. Universities have redefined their identity as corporatised organisations with commercial agendas, prioritising revenue generation over knowledge generation.

While acknowledging the risk associated with the commercialisation of universities, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we criticise the reliance on international student revenues and call for a reconsideration of university strategies and government support. The Australian case serves as a warning for other countries facing similar challenges. We also suggest the need for a shift away from performance-based metrics and a focus on ethics, values, and societal impact in education. We raise questions about alternative strategies, the role of stakeholders, and the responsibility for university reform. Ultimately, we call for a reevaluation of the relationship between a university’s mission, its stakeholders, and those responsible for its administration, emphasising the importance of public consultation and engagement in shaping the future of higher education.

Ann Sardesai has recently taken up the position of an associate professor of accounting at Prince Sultan University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Lee D. Parker is a research professor in accounting, the University of Glasgow, Scotland, UK. James Guthrie, AM, FCPA, is an emeritus professor in the Accounting and Corporate Governance Department at Macquarie University, Sydney, Australia.

The seven crucial ways university students think about getting a job

Now more than ever, success in the Australian labour market requires a post-compulsory education – either at university or TAFE – with the National Skills Commission estimating that nine in ten jobs created over the five years to 2026 will require a post-compulsory qualification. Increasingly, this entry level qualification is a bachelor degree, with 50 per cent of women and 39 per cent of men aged 25 to 44 years holding a qualification at this level or above in 2022. 

For this reason, the focus in higher education equity policy has shifted from widening participation, student retention and academic success, and towards student employability and eventual employment outcomes. However, while Australia collects official data on learning and student progress via the Student Experience Survey (SES) and employment outcomes via the Graduate Outcomes Survey (GOS), very little data is collected on “employability thinking” among students, that amalgam of aspiration and expectation that shapes university student perceptions and decision-making in relation to their studies and thinking about future employment. 

Getting inside the black box of student employability thinking is important, both in addressing issues across the general student population and in specific discipline and vocational areas, but also in identifying differences between students in similar learning contexts and specifically in relation to equity status and academic background. 

What this study did   

Our study examined data on employability thinking among first-year domestic students at an Australian university. It used data collected using the online employ-ability measure (Bennett and Ananthram, 2022), a self-assessment tool grounded in social cognitive careers theory with which students self-assess their career- and study- confidence. Seven employability dimensions were analysed:

  • Self-awareness and programme awareness: Self-awareness is a metacognitive aspect of employability and impacts the extent to which students understand the relationship between their studies and their future careers. 
  • Career identity and commitment: Career identity and commitment in the pre-professional context relates to students’ identification with their discipline relative to career. 
  • Reconsideration with commitment: Reconsideration of commitment in the preprofessional context relates to the extent to which students would change their study choices if they could do so.
  • Self-esteem: Self-esteem is an inner-value capital and reflects a ratio of realisations to expectations. A realistic assessment of self-esteem is known to influence perseverance and resilience.
  • Academic self-efficacy: Academic self-efficacy refers to students’ perception of how well they expect to perform academic tasks and understand their subjects and whether they expect to succeed in their studies. 
  • Career exploration: Career exploration relates to decisional self-efficacy and encapsulates exploration and awareness of career. 
  • Occupational mobility: In the pre-professional context, occupational mobility relates to students’ ability to manage disappointment and generate alternative career pathways.     

These dimensions are measured using a Likert scale (1 to 5 or 1 to 7), with higher rankings associated with more positive outcomes in relation to employability. 

In addition to the collection of student responses on the employability dimensions, the study also linked student response sets to individual university records, including information on gender, age, field of study, mode of study (on-campus or online), enrolment (full- or part-time) and weighted average marks. Official measures of equity status were included, including low socioeconomic status (low SES), regional or remote location, disability status, and non-English speaking background (NESB) status. The study also used an identifier for first-in-family (to attend university) students. Although data for Indigenous status were available, the relatively small group of Indigenous students precluded an analysis of Indigeneity.    

A sample of 5,909 first-year students at a single Australian university was obtained and separated into sub-samples for school leavers (n=4,465) and non-school leavers (n=1,444). Data were largely collected in the years immediately leading up to the COVID pandemic year of 2020. The analysis used these three samples to explain student responses in relation to the seven employability dimensions, with a specific focus on the influence of equity group status

How did equity status affect employability thinking?

The broad findings of the study indicated quite consistent age and gender effects, with more confident responses across the employability dimensions seen among older respondents, with female respondents also tending to be more confident except in relation to Self-esteem and Occupational mobility, where negative effects were observed. Positive effects associated with better academic outcomes, as measured by weighted average marks, were observed, but these tended to be of lower magnitude and were overshadowed by specific effects associated with field of study. Other effects were intuitively explainable. For instance, part-time status was associated with strong negative effects on Programme awareness and Reconsideration of commitment, reflecting the impact of study and life responsibilities on part-time students’ immediate connectedness to study. 

In relation to equity group effects, the most striking finding of the study was the lack of any distinctive influence – positive or negative – of low SES or regional and remote status on responses across all employability dimensions. In contrast, disability status was associated with a statistically significant negative influence in relation to four dimensions – Self-awareness, Self-esteem, Academic self-efficacy and Occupational mobility (with disability affecting the last in the most pronounced way anywhere in the study). NESB status was associated with negative effects across six dimensions – Self-awareness, Identification with commitment, Reconsideration of commitment, Self-esteem, Academic self-efficacy, and Career exploration. In addition, first-in-family status was associated with negative effects across Self-esteem, Academic self-efficacy and Occupational mobility. 

The sub-sample analysis demonstrated that the NESB and first-in-family effects were largely confined to the school leaver sub-sample, while the effects associated with disability status were strongest in the non-school leaver sub-sample.  

What issues does this work raise?

The use of the employ-ability instrument enables academic teachers, administrators and researchers to gauge student thinking across important employability dimensions and key predictors of post-study success, but also provide measures for assessing the extent to which educational disadvantage impacts on study and eventual employment performance. 

Although this study was confined to one Australian institution, it has findings that are broadly applicable to the entire Australian higher education sector and which accord with other study findings. It confirms that support for students with disability is critical in ensuring they are able to study in a supportive and responsive environment. It also provides further evidence on the reduced post-study outcomes for students with disability and NESB students, and that these in part need to be addressed by specific interventions for these groups. 

Finally, the study points to the potential benefits of a nationwide use of the employ-ability measure and associated resources to generate more evidence on the role of disadvantage in relation to employability thinking, the link between employability thinking and graduate outcomes, the identification of field of study and institution effects, and the impact of initiatives to ameliorate disadvantage.  

Dawn Bennett is a professor and assistant provost with Bond University and is an expert on developing graduate employability. Paul Koshy is a research fellow at the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE), based at Curtin University. Ian Li is a professor and director of research at the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Curtin University. Lizzie Knight is honorary senior research fellow at the Mitchell Institute, Victoria University.


Refugee Week: Why universities could – and how they should – offer refuge

Every year, a fraction of the world’s forcibly-displaced people get the opportunity to resettle in one of the main refugee-resettling countries, including Australia.  Refugees escape war and violence and search for a place to rebuild their lives. Access to and success in higher education supports refugee integration. However, while access to higher education is around 40 per cent on average globally, among refugees, it is only six per cent.

There is much universities can do to address this challenge! 

This week (June 18 to June 24) is international Refugee Week and its theme is Finding Freedom. Freedom is more than the absence of suffering and persecution; genuine freedom entails having the opportunities to be and do what one has reason to value. For refugees, having real freedom means being able to make their own decisions, engage meaningfully in society, and achieve their goals and aspirations. 

In this piece we reflect on education as a means of freedom and the role of universities in helping refugees find freedom.

Globally, universities engage in humanitarian work in many ways. Universities, as public goods, can facilitate integration opportunities through their role in society. Firstly, as sites of higher learning, universities can offer hope and pathways to individual, community development and tools for economic participation and future nation-rebuilding. Secondly, as key brokers between students and professions — through liaison with community, employers, and professional associations — universities can push for more postgraduate opportunities and shift employer and societal attitudes towards more positive welcome for forced migrants. Thirdly, universities have a role to play in creating more durable solutions to refugee resettlement through the development of educational migration refugee pathways.

Universities Can and Should Play a Bigger Role in Supporting Refugees

In a recent book, entitled The Good University, sociologist Raewyn Connell highlights five key features of a good university. For Connell, a good university is democratic, engaged, truthful, creative, and sustainable,“fully present for the society” that supports it. An engaged university is a responsive and responsible university. A good university produces socially relevant knowledge for addressing pervasive issues (e.g. environmental catastrophe and humanitarian crises). An engaged university deals with difficult societal issues such as injustice, racism, domination, and exploitation.

A good university is not simply an economic machinery; it does not aspire just to contribute to knowledge economy. A good (and engaged) university is committed to building a knowledge society that is just, caring, democratic, and sustainable. 

In our collective response to humanitarian crises, universities have three critical roles to play. The most common strand of engagement concerns widening access to teaching and learning in higher education. Universities can offer special consideration to admit forcibly displaced people, including offering online access to courses to people in displacement contexts, such as this example from the University of Leicester in the UK. Many universities in Australia and internationally also offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships.  

The second form of humanitarian response is research and training. Universities generate knowledge on causes, consequences, and potential solutions of humanitarian crisis. Humanitarian training focuses on equipping leaders in emergencies with evidence-based knowledge and skills. Examples include the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative and Deakin University’s Centre for Humanitarian Leadership.

The third example of university responses to humanitarian crisis is advocacy. University staff and students in the Global North engage in awareness raising activities and campaigns. The efforts range from mobilising financial resources and engaging in public consultation to organizing seminars and panel discussions on humanitarian issues. National examples of coordinated advocacy include the Universities of Sanctuary movement in the UK and the Welcoming University initiative in Australia. The Refugee Education Special Interest Group is an example of a grassroots activism network in Australia that works to advocate for better educational opportunities and outcomes for students from forced migration backgrounds. At the institutional level, the Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at UTS is an excellent example of a university that is leveraging its resources to advocate at the local level, as well as using its networks to amplify its own and other advocates’ messages nationally.

Policy Invisibility of Refugees

Policy invisibility is a major issue in Australia. Despite being a signatory to major global refugee-related initiatives, including the Refugee Convention (1951) and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants (2016), Australia has failed to ensure that refugees are consistently included in educational policies. Major national inclusion initiatives (for example, the Multicultural Access and Equity Guide and the Alice Spring Educational Declaration) recognise refugees as targets of policy action. However, when it comes to the higher education sector, refugees are invisible. They are subsumed under other equity groups such as Non-English Speaking Background or low Socio-Economic status group. None of these grouping recognise unique educational needs of refugees.  Policy invisibility at sectoral level means, universities have little or no financial incentives to support students with forced migration backgrounds. 

What can be done

In a report to the Commonwealth government, Peter Shergold and colleagues stressed: “Investing in refugees, investing in Australia”.  That is true.  High educational attainment enables refugees to actively participate in the economic, social, and cultural lives of the host society.  It supports integration. Conversely, low educational attainment means a loss of human capital, which in turn may diminish national economic productivity and competitiveness. This is particularly the case, given the majority of refugees are young and eager to rebuild their lives. 

In their journeys to, through, and out of higher education, refugees and asylum seekers in Australia can face many challenges associated with English language proficiency, navigational resources, and ongoing academic support. 

Facing similar challenges, the German government managed to enrol tens of thousands of refugees into higher education by (a) funding an independent agent that could assess educational levels and qualifications of refugees, (b) supporting refugees to study in special academic preparatory colleges, and (c) providing funding to universities  enable them to provide ongoing academic support to refugee students.

We believe we can learn a lesson from the coordinated approach to refugee education in Germany. This requires policy recognition as a formally identified equity cohort; it necessitates sustained ‘Welcoming Refugees Universities’ coordination; and it demands a greater shared responsibility between students, staff, institutions, and governments to make sure that the challenges we have been writing about for nearly 10 years become action points, rather than points of perennial concern. 

What matters is that educational opportunities help refugees find freedom. The importance of freedom and education for refugees cannot be overstated. For refugees, freedom means more than just the absence of physical confinement. It also means the ability to live a life of dignity and autonomy. Education is a key enabler of this kind of freedom. 

A free and fair society should ensure that all qualified members have access to quality and relevant higher education. By providing refugees with the knowledge and skills they need to thrive, education empowers them to build a better future for themselves, and their families. 

From left to right: Dr Tebeje Molla is a Senior Lecturer and ARC Future Fellow in the School of Education at Deakin University, Australia. Dr Sally Baker is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education at UNSW. The Hon. Prof. Verity Firth is Pro Vice-Chancellor (Social Justice & Inclusion) and Executive Director, Centre for Social Justice and Inclusion at UTS.

Education: the five concerns we should debate right now

Meghan Stacey on the trouble with teaching

Deb Hayes on making school systems more equitable.

Phillip Dawson on how we should treat ChatGPT.

Sarah O’Shea on widening participation at university.

Scott Eacott on the Productivity Commission’s review of the National School Reform Agreement.

The trouble with teaching by Meghan Stacey

Last year was a big one for teachers. In NSW, where I live and work, years of escalating workload, the relentless intensity of the job and salaries that are declining in real terms were compounded by reports of debilitating staff shortages leading to considerable strike action. The latter half of 2022 then saw a NSW inquiry and a federal action plan aiming to address such shortages. Nevertheless, government responses to these issues have been critiqued as focusing too much on supply and not enough on retention. Concerns about teachers’ working conditions do not seem to have really been heard, and there’s not much point talking about supply, or any other challenge for education in 2023, until we truly have that conversation. 

Australian teachers work long hours, and complete considerable administrative labour when compared internationally. It is true that some steps are being taken to reduce teachers’ administrative load, but not always in a way that recognises the intellectual and creative complexity of their work. And according to the Teachers Federation, when NSW schools go back in just a few days, they will be starting their year with a whopping 3,300 vacant positions. So there is much still to be done, and I wonder: in 2023, will action be taken that adequately addresses the depth of disquiet rumbling amongst the profession?

Making our schooling systems more equitable by Deb Hayes

This draws on parts of my book with Craig Campbell.

In terms of funding, how much is enough to provide a good education to an Australian child? This question has occupied policymakers for decades. 

In 1973, a Whitlam-appointed committee proposed eight school categories A-H, A being the highest. It argued that support for schools in Category A with resource levels already above agreed targets be phased out because government aid could not be justified for maintaining or raising standards beyond those that publicly funded schools could hope to achieve by the end of the decade.

Today, Commonwealth funding for schools is needs-based and calculated according to the Schooling Resource Standard, which estimates how much public funding a school needs to meet its students’ educational needs. 

Sounds good? Well, not really, because schools that already have enough to provide a good education receive federal government funding due to an amendment by Fraser to Whitlam’s proposal. Under current funding arrangements, public schools in all states except the ACT will be funded at 91% of their SRS index or less by 2029.

It’s time to pause government funding to non-government schools that already have enough to provide a good education until all public schools are funded at 100% of their SRS.

Challenges for Widening Participation by Sarah O’Shea

2023 will usher in both challenges and opportunities for widening participation in Australian higher education, not least of which is the predicted growth in school leavers. Those born under the Costello ‘baby boom’ of 2005-2008 will be leaving school from 2023, with an almost 20% increase in this age cohort by 2030 (Productivity Commission, 2022). While this is good news for a post pandemic higher education sector, ensuring equity in the face of greater competition for places will be an important challenge moving forward for the sector. 

Given the greater number and diversity of participants, how we conceive and categorise what ‘equity’ is, will be key. The current six equity categories were defined in the eighties and research has indicated the limitations of these outdated classifications (Tomaszewski et al, 2018). The diversity of current and future student populations requires expanded definitions of ‘who’ our equity students are, definitions are that are both more granular in nature and also, responsive to emerging trends in higher education participation. Any changes in definitions need to be accompanied by a better measurement of cumulative disadvantage, recognising that students often belong to multiple equity groups and that this membership has distinct impacts at different stages of the student life cycle (Tomaszewski et al., 2020). 

For 2023 and beyond, contextualised and targeted approaches to supporting growing diverse populations will be required. Approaches that cater to both the uniqueness of our students and also, specific learning environments. Of course, such bespoke approaches to widening participation are resource intensive. In an environment of reduced funding and pressure to meet equity performance benchmarks, this too will be a challenge for institutions, particularly regional universities who are often serving the most disadvantaged communities. 

ChatGPT is the least capable it will ever be. What can we do about it. By Phillip Dawson

I asked ChatGPT to “Write 200 words about the challenge that ChatGPT poses to education
in 2023”. It gave me a 283 word response, starting with:
“ChatGPT poses several challenges to education in 2023. One of the most significant
challenges is that it has the ability to generate human-like text, which makes it difficult to
distinguish between machine-generated content and that written by a human. This can lead
to concerns about plagiarism and the authenticity of information, making it more difficult
for educators to ensure that students are producing original work.”
Like much of the media commentary, ChatGPT has jumped straight to academic integrity
concerns. Yes, this is a challenge. Assessment has become harder thanks to the emergenceide
of generative artificial intelligence.
But that’s not the whole picture. These tools are getting more and more sophisticated, and
are already used in society to be creative, have fun, and get stuff done. Rather than focusing
so much on the threats posed by ChatGPT traditional assessment practices, we might need
to question how fit for purpose our assessments are for the world our students will inhabit
when they graduate. Because these tools are currently the least capable they’ll ever be.
I hope 2023 is the year where we double down on what we could call “future-authentic
assessment”: assessment that considers what’s likely to happen to the world.

Where’s the discussion of funding? Scott Eacott on the Productivity Commission’s review of the National School Reform Agreement.

Setting national education policy is a complex task. This is made even more difficult in Australia given the constitutional responsibility for education lies with the states and territories but the
commonwealth government controls the finances. Therefore, while legislation and national
declarations establish the social contract between government and its citizens (equity and
excellence in school provision), jurisdictional sovereignty can get in the way of reform.

Friday’s release of the Productivity Commission’s review of the National School Reform Agreement
(NSRA) highlights the complexity. The NSRA is a joint agreement between the Commonwealth,
states, and territories with the objective of delivering high quality and equitable education for all
Australian students (the social contract). There is a lot to unpack in the review with considerable
media attention on the failure of the NSRA to improve student outcomes. I want to raise three key
systemic points:

1) Common critiques of federalism focus on overlap in responsibilities (e.g., funding of schools) and
duplication as state and territory groups replicate national policies and initiatives (e.g.,
professional standards, curriculum). This imposes artificial divisions in a complex policy domain
whose actions impact well beyond state or territory borders. There are reduced opportunities
for engagement, surrendering some of the strengths of a federal system of government and the
removal of important failsafe mechanisms, as each jurisdiction seeks to assert its independence
and sovereignty. Achieving uniformity across eight jurisdictions is difficult, time consuming, and
often reduces initiatives to the lowest common denominator.
2) Despite some concerns about new data points (e.g., additional testing, administrative
paperwork), the review calls for greater reporting and transparency from states and territories.
In most – if not all – cases, the data points already exist. What the review argues is for a common
basis for new targets but greater flexibility in how jurisdictions pursing delivering on them. This
flexibility comes with greater accountability for performance of reforms against benchmarks.
That is, each jurisdiction will be held to accountable for how their reforms deliver on targets.
Such reporting would make it clear when reforms are, and are not, working for students.

3) Funding was excluded as a topic for discussion in the review. Since at least the first Gonski
Report, the funding of Australian schools has been a central issue. As the NSRA was established
on the back of a $319B funding deal for schools, the achievement of its objective cannot be
achieved unless funding mechanisms ensure equitable distribution of funds to schools and
specifically the targeting of funding to those schools and students most disadvantaged.

As noted, there is plenty to unpack, and the above just point to some key systemic issues in design in a
process focused on improving outcomes for students and holding jurisdictions to account for their
reforms in meeting agreed targets.

Meghan Stacey is a senior lecturer in the UNSW School of Education, researching in the fields of the sociology of education and education policy and is the director of the Bachelor of Education (Secondary). Taking a particular interest in teachers, her research considers how teachers’ work is framed by policy, as well as the effects of such policy for those who work with, within and against it. She is an associate editor, The Australian Educational Researcher Links: Twitter & University Profile

Debra Hayes is professor of education and equity, and head of the University of Sydney School of Education and Social Work.  Her most recent book (with Ruth Lupton) is Great Mistakes in Education Policy: How to avoid them in the Future (Policy Press, 2021). She tweets at @DrDebHayes.

Professor Phillip (Phill) Dawson is the Associate Director of the Centre for Research inAssessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE) at Deakin University. His two latest books are Defending Assessment Security in a Digital World: Preventing E-Cheating and Supporting Academic Integrity in Higher Education (Routledge, 2021) and the co-edited volume Re-imagining University Assessment in a Digital World (Springer, 2020). Phill’s work on cheating is part of his broader research into assessment, which includes work on assessment design and feedback. In his spare time Phill performs improv comedy and produces the academia-themed comedy show The Peer Revue.

Sarah O’Shea is a Professor and Director of the National Centre of Student Equity in Higher Education at Curtin University. Sarah has over 25 years experience teaching in universities as well as the VET and Adult Education sector, she has also published widely on issues related to educational access and equity.

Scott Eacott PhD, is deputy director of the Gonski Institute for Education, and professor of education in the School of Education at UNSW Sydney and adjunct professor in the Department of Educational Administration at the University of Saskatchewan.

Top of the pops: AARE’s Hottest Ten 2022

Thank you to all our contributors in 2022. We published over 100 blog posts this year from academics all over Australia, from research students to DECRA fellows, to deans and professors. Thank you all for being part of our community and many thanks to the AARE executive, especially newly-minted Professor Nicole Mockler.

Didn’t get to write this year? Want to contribute? Here are notes for contributors. Pitch to me at jenna@aare.edu.au.

The 2022 AARE EduResearch Matters blog of the year, announced at the AARE conference in Adelaide: “Why restoring trust in teaching now could fix the teacher shortage”. La Trobe’s Babak Dadvand wrote a compelling account of one way to address the teacher shortage.

It is genuinely hard to choose the best because every single blog reveals new ideas and new thinking about education but I’ll just list our ten most read for 2022 (and of course, some of our older posts have racked up thousands and thousands of views). So many others were excellent and please look at our comprehensive archive.

Here we go! 2022 top ten.

Babak Dadvand on the teacher shortage.

Inger Mewburn: Is this now the Federal government’s most bone-headed idea ever?

Debra Hayes: Here’s what a brave new minister for education could do right away to fix the horrific teacher shortage

Kate de Bruin, Pamela Snow, Linda Graham, Tanya Serry and Jacinta Conway: There are definitely better ways to teach reading

Marg Rogers: Time, money, exhaustion: why early childhood educators will join the Great Resignation

Rachel Wilson: What do you think we’ve got now? Dud teachers or a dud minister? Here are the facts

Simon Crook: More Amazing Secrets of Band Six (part two ongoing until they fix the wretched thing)

(And part one is now one of our most read posts of all-time)

Alison Bedford and Naomi Barnes: The education minister’s terrible, horrible, no good, very bad idea*

Martina Tassone, Helen Cozmescu, Bree Hurn and Linda Gawne: No. There isn’t one perfect way to teach reading

Thank you to all of you for making this such a lovely community, looking forward to hearing from you and a special thank you to Maralyn Parker who has now been retired from the blog for two years but is still a fantastically supportive human when I need urgent help.

Jenna Price