Very surprised by this piece in @insidehighered which notes that agents have expanded their reach into domestic higher education recruitment in Australia:
When the Australian Skills Quality Authority examined 400 college websites during last year’s marketing audit, as many as 70 turned out to belong to brokerage firms rather than training providers.“It’s certainly quite a phenomenon now,” said Chris Robinson, the agency’s chief commissioner.
A consultant, Claire Field, said marketing agents were particularly active in Queensland, mostly selling vocational diplomas. “With the higher education reforms, there’s no doubt we’ll see more activity,” she said.This is already happening, with high-flying Acquire Learning marketing degrees in accounting, arts, business, community services and information technology from Federation University and more than a dozen private colleges. Melbourne-based ProLearn recruits students for Victoria University’s graduate certificate in management.
While this does appear to be focused mainly on colleges and vocational qualifications there is some evidence of universities using such services too. Many UK institutions use agents for international recruitment but how long can it be before universities and colleges start using this kind of service for domestic student recruitment too?
A recently released report in Australia following a review of higher education regulation has found that an “unnecessarily heavy reporting burden” had been imposed on higher education providers by the quality agency and government.
A report in University World News notes the irony in the fact that a paper aimed at reducing red tape is 99 pages long. The piece also observes that the report’s conclusions, that the higher education sector is over-regulated and that reducing the burden on universities is sorely needed, have been widely welcomed:
The report says the quality agency had been established in an “already crowded regulatory environment”, and it proposes a reduction in its functions and the number of its commissioners. It says the minister should issue a direction to the agency’s chief executive regarding allocation of resources so that the agency can accredit courses more quickly.
The report says there should also be a reduction in duplication across the various acts that govern university regulation and a better way of improving information sharing across agencies, to reduce the need for universities to report the same information multiple times to various bodies.
In addition, the report proposes the establishment of an overarching advisory council to consult with stakeholders and advise the minister, and calls for the speedy implementation of a single national higher education data collection system.
However, it may be some time before there is progress with this agenda. With major political change underway in Australia following the recent election it is possible that reducing higher education regulation may not to top of the new government’s priorities.
A story in Inside Higher Ed notes that the Australian government is considering cutting higher education regulation. A previous post noted the woeful track record of UK governments in reducing the regulatory burden on universities so it will be interesting to see if Australia makes more progress:
In a radical policy change, Australia’s Tertiary Education Minister, Craig Emerson, is this week releasing a new approach to quality control that meets university demands for a lighter regulatory burden and could gut Labor’s own creation, the Tertiary Education Quality Assurance Agency.
More or less?
While Emerson is announcing only a regulatory review, measures included in the announcement make it clear he has heard and understood the concerns of Universities Australia and the Group of Eight, and accepts that an estimated $280 million in annual compliance costs for universities to report to government is unacceptable. “The review will ensure more of the government’s record investment is directed at student tuition than administration,” he planned to say.
In immediate measures Emerson will announce rationalizations of reports required by his department and says the departmental secretary, Don Russell, will write to the chief commissioner of the quality assurance agency, Carol Nicoll, to “seek advice about any immediate actions that can be taken to ameliorate concerns in the sector about red tape.”
It is just a review in the first instance but it does look like everyone wants to make changes. It will be interesting to see if the Australian sector is more successful in reducing the regulatory burden than we have been in the UK.
Australian universities are paying big salaries for rankers
Inside Higher Ed has a report on at least a couple of Australian institutions appointing league table specialists:
Some Australian universities are paying about $100,000 a year each to employ full-time managers dedicated to working with ranking agencies and developing strategies aimed at climbing league tables.
The University of New South Wales recently advertised for a manager of strategic reputation, while La Trobe University was seeking a manager of institutional rankings. For $100,000, responsibilities included maintaining relationships with ranking agencies to “maximize” or “optimize” their positions in rankings.
Observers say such positions highlight the growing importance of rankings in influencing research and teaching plans. But there are concerns that the professionalized management of rankings risks warping university strategies and may prove more a marketing effort than an effort to boost the substance of an institution’s performance.
The deputy vice chancellor at New South Wales, Les Field, said the position wasn’t new and was part of a team that ensured the information sent to annual data collections and the ranking agencies was accurate.
“It’s essential to have a team dedicated to getting our numbers right as well as providing the analysis on which we can direct the research effort into the future,” Field said. (Several American universities have been ensnared in controversies over their flawed — and in some cases seemingly gamed — reporting of data to rankings organizations. So far Australian universities have not been similarly besmirched.)
Whilst the work to be undertaken by these people in terms of data collection and analysis will undoubtedly be beneficial it is hard to get away from the idea that these appointments sound like an attempt to achieve a quick fix in terms of institutional league table performance. Will it pay off? Given the time lags involved with the data used it will be quite a few years before we find out.
The latest survey of international recruitment agent views
Given that I am currently at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus on a brief visit I thought I would focus on an international story. ICEF (an international market intelligence outfit) and i-graduate have just published their 2012 global survey of international student recruitment agents’ views on destination countries. The headline figures are probably what you would expectwith the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand all showing well. But there are two particularly interesting points in this table and the commentary with it:
Year-over-year, the most remarkable change among leading destination countries can be found in Canada. Since 2008, Canada has risen fully 15 percentage points in its perceived attractiveness among education agents. Compare that to the US (a gain of 5 percentage points since 2008), the UK (a loss of 7 percentage points), Australia (a loss of 1 percentage point), and New Zealand (a gain of 3 percentage points). In 2008, Canada was tied with Australia in third place; in 2012, it is tied with the UK in second. Asian agents in particular registered a great surge in how attractive they consider Canada.
The first is the rise and rise of Canada as a destination. It is really impressive and this perceived attractiveness has, I believe, been confirmed in international student recruitment data. The second is the UK’s decline over the past five years but its stability in the most recent two years when the government’s significantly anti-immigration stance has been most pronounced. The fear must be though that this will get worse in future as the impact of visa restrictions and the reputational fall-out from the London Met debacle bites.
It will be really interesting to see how this plays out in future.
Universities in Australia have welcomed the “timely” decision by the country’s federal government to review its student-visa system in light of the recent collapse in demand from overseas students.
Ministers announced the review last week alongside an immediate package of measures designed to ease restrictions that have been partly blamed for the decline in applications from key markets such as India and China.
Although other factors such as the global recession, the strong Australian dollar and the fallout from attacks on Indian students have also hit enrolments, the government has come under pressure to change its visa policy.
Concerns have also been expressed that the Australian government was giving overseas students the impression that it was not “open for business”, with the result that students were heading for competitor countries such as the US, Canada and the UK.
Given the decidedly unfriendly tenor of the government’s latest immigration proposals, this move could reverse the flow of traffic. Good news for Australian HE, not good for UK universities (or the UK economy).
Mediocrity Threatens Australian ‘Brand’ in Higher Education, Official Warns
Australia has lost its edge as a leader in the global-export education industry as universities in the United States, Canada, and Scandinavia discourage their students from indulging in a “sun, surf, and sex” experience down under.
Mr. Gallagher, who leads the Group of Eight, told the audience at a colloquium at the University of Sydney that an Australian education was associated more with a “beer-and-beaches holiday” than a valuable learning experience. His speech amplified fears among the nation’s elite universities that Australian education exports have pursued a bulk rather than a quality strategy, to the point that an Australian degree is perceived as the educational equivalent of one of the country’s cheap chardonnays.
Growth in the international-education sector, the nation’s fourth-largest export industry, which does $9.81-billion (U.S.) of business a year, has stalled in the wake of a rising Australian dollar and diminishing demand in some traditional markets, coupled with the public-relations catastrophe of the University of New South Wales’ recent withdrawal from Singapore.
Whereas there might be a way to make the surfing experience attractive and exclusive, the UNSW problem really seems like it will have long term consequences.