ED's LetterOctober 2016
The Productivity Commission’s recently released draft report on its inquiry into new models of tertiary education tentatively raises the suggestion of Student Education Accounts, the idea being that the Government’s annual investment into tertiary tuition and training could instead be divvied up between every resident. The upshot would be every 16-year-old having access to $45,000 to spend on training of their choice, at a time that best suits them.
As I read about these Student Education Accounts, some immediate alarm bells went off in my mind, as I thought about the implications for many providers if such a radical funding change was to come to fruition. And as anticipated, there has been much press release, bashing of the concept, with some valid concerns being made.
But these doubts aside, as someone who is passionate about lifelong learning, I can see real merit in the idea. The Commission’s report emphasises that students should be free to transition easily between providers. It also proposes a stronger advisory system for students prior to tertiary education. These measures, combined with the opportunities afforded by the Student Education Accounts, would certainly put students in the driving seat for their education.
I also like how the Student Education Account concept brings much-needed equality to tertiary education, helping to remove the obvious and often insurmountable cost barrier for many young people.
What excites me the most, however, is the departure from the same-old, same-old sort of policy discussions, to which we’ve become so accustomed in this sector. The Commission’s report doesn’t have all the answers. In fact, it has received a fair amount of criticism. But what it does do is open up the door to conversations about the potential for innovation and growth within a sector that can’t afford to sit still.
Are Student Education Accounts the way forward? Let’s discuss it and find out.
Editor, Jude Barback
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