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July 19, 2010 | by  | in News |
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Joyce shows up at Vic, says some stuff, suggests some changes

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Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce has signaled that the academic performance of universities and other tertiary education institutions, and how well they prepare students for life after study, will play a more important role in determining levels of funding.

Funding tied to employment outcomes and the online publication of high-level performance information were among the incentives for the tertiary education sector outlined by Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce in a speech at Victoria University last week.

Joyce signaled that over the next two years, tertiary providers will move to a system where funding is “based on how well they perform academically by preparing their students for life after study”.

Initially, a maximum of five per cent of funding will be performance-based.

“Ultimately, I want to see funding linked to employment outcomes, not just internal benchmarks,” Joyce told the audience, which included Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh, Otago University Vice-Chancellor David Skegg and other key stakeholders in the tertiary education sector.

“This will send a strong signal to students about which qualifications and which institutions offer the best career prospects—and that’s what tertiary education has got to be about.”

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Pat Walsh said there is merit in considering funding being linked to employment outcomes.

“I feel very confident from the graduate outcome surveys we undertake that our students go on to be useful and productive members of society,” he said.

“There will need to be discussion to be had about exactly how we would do it, but the general principle is not an issue.”

VUWSA President Max Hardy cannot see how such a policy could work in practice.

“I think it shows a lack of understanding of the purpose of tertiary education. We are not just here to train to get a job. Getting a job is not he best indicator of success,” he said.

Joyce said the government is committed to “incentivising educational performance” and providing students with adequate information to inform their decisions surrounding tertiary study.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) is about to begin regularly publishing online performance information for tertiary education institutions.

“This information, along with what’s already out there, will empower students’ decisions with the best possible information about course quality, cost, academic requirements and the likely impact on future career prospects,” Joyce said.

“I am sure it will also be a big reputational incentive for tertiary education organisations.”

Walsh supports the publication of high-level performance information “as long as the information is accurate, the measures are relevant and the presentation is of value to current and future students”.

New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Co-President David Do says the information needs to be relevant to students.

“It can’t just be targeted at what the ‘average student’ would want to know, otherwise it runs the risk of only catering to a certain group, and potentially only those who are already well represented in higher education,” he said.

“Information would also have to be simple enough so that students will actually use it, but complex enough so that it doesn’t create perverse outcomes.

“The educational performance measures—course and qualification completion, retention and progression, are relatively crude measures of what constitutes ‘quality teaching and learning’. They can only paint a basic picture of quality teaching and learning and don’t at all address the reasons behind why some students drop out of education.”

Joyce acknowledged in his speech that increased demand for tertiary education, in part caused by the economic recession, has prompted some universities, Victoria included, to restrict enrolments.

“While universities have always restricted enrolments in some courses to some degree, it would not be ideal to see too much of this at this time.”

However, extra funding for the tertiary education sector is not on the horizon.

“It is highly unlikely that there will be any significant cash injections in the foreseeable future,” Joyce said.

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Editor for 2010, politics nerd, panda fan and three-time award-winning student journalist.

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