Tertiary Education Policy in Australia


When ideas for long-term nation-building run up against the limitations imposed by a low tax-and-spend polity, in the short-term low tax wins every time. And the long-term in Australian politics and policy consists of the sum of all the short-terms.
We are now seeing cuts to public funding without increases in private funding. The international student market, which provides almost one university dollar in every five, has been in the doldrums since 2009. The Opposition implies a worse outcome, as its reading of the fiscal position is likely to result in large-scale spending reductions in many areas, including higher education.

When the political parties will not talk about the substance of higher education and research, we depend on civil society, the media, the public in all its forms, and the institutions of higher education and research themselves, to define and advance the issues. This book is designed to stimulate and contribute to such a process of discussion.

It has been prepared by academic staff associated with Australia's principal research centre focused on higher education: the Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE) at the University of Melbourne. The chapters focus on the big policy issues facing tertiary education in Australia. They are research-based but prepared in a reader-friendly style to enhance discussion. They do not form a unified whole: there is no party line and some authors differ from others. The value of these chapters lies in their expertise: the authors are at the cutting edge of the issues they discuss.

We hope that by treating the issues seriously here, other voices (lay and expert) will be encouraged and knowledge will advance, enabling better policies. Discussion alone does not achieve good government, but it provides better conditions for that objective.


  • Creating a demand-driven system Conor King and Richard James
  • Monitoring and improving student engagement Alexandra Radloff and Hamish Coates
  • Assessing higher education outcomes and performance Hamish Coates
  • Assessing academic standards in Australian higher education Scott Thompson-Whiteside
  • TEQSA and the holy grail of outcomes-based quality assessment Vin Massaro
  • Labor's failure to ground public funding Simon Marginson
  • The Base Funding Review, Graduate Winners and undergraduate fees Geoff Sharrock
  • Research training in Australia Nigel Palmer
  • On the fragmentation and decline of academic work Emmaline Bexley
  • Towards a model for professionalising VET teaching Leesa Wheelahan
  • Internationalisation: Where to from here? Dennis Murray
  • English language standards and claims of soft marking Sophie Arkoudis
  • Internationalising the student experience Chi Baik
  • Australia and world university rankings Simon Marginson

Written and published by the Centre for the Study of Higher Education University of Melbourne. Edited by Simon Marginson

Dedicated to the memory of Professor Grant Harman.

Date: July 2013

Download PDF