Whilst not at all doubting Professor Davis’ assurance that the
‘Melbourne Model’ is targetted foremost at quality educational
outcomes, it’s clear that financial pressures are at least one
catalyst for this considered gamble. The new approach, including as
it does a significant increase in full fee paying enrolments, will
inter alia deliver some measure of financial autonomy by making the
university less dependent on the whims of government budget
allocations. Public reaction and assessment of the move must not
lose sight of this reality. It’s fair to speculate at least on
whether this venture would even be occurring, or certainly so
comprehensively, had Federal governments of the past two decades
funded tertiary education less sparely.
To limit the pace of radical experimentation with higher education,
we must redouble our efforts in calling on our political leaders to
reverse the real shrinkage in funding for university places. The HECS/
full-fee debate must not be relegated to page 10. One approach which
deserves consideration is a means-tested, across the board sliding
scale for setting university fees. Students from the poorest families
would receive a fully taxpayer funded education (appropriate for a
commonwealth ). The richest would pay the full cost of their
education. Academic merit would remain the core factor in the
allocation of places.
A truly clever country would have acted before it got to this.