The Sydney Morning Herald reports that students are the focus of a new, performance-based federal university funding scheme, with student success, student experience and enrolment rates from Indigenous, disadvantaged, and rural backgrounds all being monitored, alongside graduate employment outcomes.

The measurement for student success will count dropout rates for domestic first-year students, while student experience will be based on their satisfaction rating of teaching quality. Universities must demonstrate success across all the measures to unlock funding, starting in 2020 – when the government will lift a two-year freeze on support for undergraduate places in Australia. 

Education Minister Dan Tehan said higher education in Australia was world-class but needed to be “stronger, more sustainable and fit for purpose,” adding that the measures “will ensure there are incentives for performance and transparency.”

Boosting Student Satisfaction and Performance Not Just About Measuring Employment Outcomes 

While the new performance measures were devised by a panel of five university vice-chancellors, the higher education sector remains divided. Writing in The Australian, Iain Martin, vice-chancellor of Victoria’s Deakin University, acknowledged a need to monitor success but argued for strict thresholds when measuring universities by past performance. “It is also important that the suite of performance measures remain balanced — while employment is important, it is not the only measure of quality that should matter. The ever-increasing focus on employment and salary in the UK’s Teaching Excellence Framework measures has really distorted that system and should be a warning for Australia.”

Andrew Norton, Grattan Institute higher education expert, went a little further. He warned against connecting funding of student places to performance indicators, saying, “performance funding is unlikely to be helpful in improving student and university performance.”

Read more on this story from the Sydney Morning Herald, and read Iain Martin’s piece at The Australian.