Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
"Quality Assurance" Mechanism No Substitute for incentives



Download PDFDownload PDF

P A R L I A ME NT OF A U STR A LI A H O U S E OF R E P R E S E N T A T I V E S

*

9

DR DAVID KEMP M.P. MEMBER FOR GOLDSTEIN SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION

368 Centre Road, Bentleigh, Vic. 3204 Tel: (03) 557 4644 Fax: (03) 557 2906

MEDIA RELEASE 9 NOVEMBER 1992

"QUALITY ASSURANCE" MECHANISM NO SUBSTITUTE FOR INCENTIVES

The dominant pressures within the Government's Unified National System of universities are for uniformity, mediocrity and continuing downward pressure on standards.

The so-called "Quality Assurance" mechanism announced by the Minister for Higher Education and Employment Services today is an admission that the bureaucratically controlled Unified National System of universities does not have adequate built-in incentives for quality.

The Government is effectively saying that without a new committee its system cannot assure quality.

The proposal for the mechanism is hopelessly confused and contradictory as the Minister tries to reconcile a new central control mechanism with institutional autonomy. ■ , /

Despite the double talk, the new mechanism is yet another invasion of institutional autonomy and yet another significant pressure for uniformity.

On the one hand the Government states that "it is for institutions to determine their mission, to define what they mean by quality and standards of performance against their own objectives", while on the other hand it asserts that "only those institutions with a better than adequate performance, and able to demonstrate it, will be rewarded with funding’from the $80.5 million supplement". The Government wants to come down heavily on both sides of the fence at the same time.

One thing is obvious. The new mechanism will not work.

How can a committee decide which universities are best utilising their resources?

COMMONWEALTH

PARLIAMENTARY LIBRARY MICAH

< A X R L R R A OF? K Pv P ι γ Ι μ π Η'ΠΙ Η<υι-ο·. (’nnivrra A (VI ‘J6')0 T '1!' 06 ■ 277 203 ; ) F a x ' <06 2 > > >* 5 < 6

- 2 -

It is obvious that some outcomes of education and research are more easily measured than others. Even the Government's own Higher Education Council concluded that no single measure of quality was possible. Quality will always have to be judged in terms of the diversity of objectives of the universities and "stakeholders".

Professor Peter Karmel summed up the problems with the Government's proposal, and with its associated push for competency based training, in his Sir Robert Menzies Oration (28 October):

"They ignore the reality that the process of university education is itself a purpose of universities: the process is an outcome. Worse, they attempt to standardise outcomes. Thus they favour past practice rather than future possibilities. They fail to appreciate the complexity of universities in their activities and objectives; they ignore that scholarship and research flourish where academics have substantial autonomy in deciding what each teaches and

studies; they disregard the as yet unknown problems of an uncertain future."

The difficulties of determining relative quality are likely to lead in the end to resources being distributed widely through the system, so that even within the scheme's own terms, little will be achieved.

The proposal is a nonsense, but it is all the Government has to offer to answer charges that its central regulation of the university system is undermining quality.

It is an answer that will not be believed.

Further information : Richard Ellis (03) 277 2037