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The unis winning big from uncapped students places

by Rajdeep

Western Sydney University, ACU and Macquarie University are among the biggest winners from the demand-driven system for universities, growing by more than 6000 students in the five years to 2014, a new report reveals.

But the authors have questioned whether universities are being held accountable for ensuring that the rapid growth has not come at the expense of the quality of education they deliver.

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The report, by Professor Emeritus Frank Larkins and Associate Professor Ian Marshman from the University of Melbourne, also asked whether universities should have to demonstrate completion rates or other output measures, rather than being allocated funding based purely on starting student numbers.

Since the Gillard Labor government instituted the demand-driven system by uncapping student places in higher education in 2009, WSU has gained $120.7 million in domestic student revenues, while its international student intake shrank, according to the analysis.

ACU, which has seven campuses including two in Sydney, gained $123.8 million in domestic student revenue in the same period, and Macquarie gained $106.7 million.

A report by the Parliamentary Budget Office in April warned that the student debt to the government will triple over the next decade from $13.5 billion to $48.1 billion, due to the uncapping of university course places and Labor’s decision to extend loans to vocational education. It said by 2025-26 about $4 billion of the debt is not expected to be repaid, up from $1.9 billion in 2015-2016.

The universities have so far resisted publishing completion rates.

A spokeswoman for Macquarie said “there is no current evidence that the demand-driven system has led to a decline in graduate quality or retention rates. As one of Australia’s top 10 universities we are confident that the graduates that stem from Macquarie are amongst the best equipped to enter the workforce and excel in their career.”

A report in April warned that the student debt to the government will triple over the next decade.
A report in April warned that the student debt to the government will triple over the next decade. Photo: Louie Douvis

The universities highlighted benefits the demand-driven system had brought to disadvantaged students.

A spokesman from WSU said “a key focus of the demand-driven system was to address the under-representation of students from low SES backgrounds, and while regional differences remain, significant progress has been made. Western Sydney University’s growth in the five years to 2014 is a direct response to this policy.”

The spokesman said WSU’s drop out rate was in line with the national average.

The acting Vice-Chancellor of ACU, Dr Stephen Weller, said: “The demand-driven system has provided an opportunity for more than 100,000 Australians to receive a university education, enabling students who have previously been excluded from higher education – including many who are the first in their family – to attend university.”

The unis which grew the fastest to 2014 nationally are Deakin, ACU, RMIT, Curtin, Swinburne, Western Sydney and Macquarie.

Southern Cross, Murdoch, Victoria, Federation, Charles Darwin and ANU reported marginal or low growth of less than 1500 students in that time.

The universities that made the largest gain in domestic student revenue are Deakin ($166.5m), ACU ($162.6m), RMIT ($141.3m), Curtin ($134.5m), Queensland ($133.4m), Swinburne ($128.1m) and Western Sydney ($120.7m).

The universities with the highest overall revenue growth in the five years to 2014 – combining domestic and international student revenue – were Melbourne at $242m, Queensland at $226m, Sydney at $211m and UNSW at $195m.

[Source:- smh.au]

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