Academics from three WA universities are calling for a royal commission into higher education. They argue that an obsession with university rankings and publishing research has overtaken universities’ fundamental mission: to deliver quality education to Australian students.
From The SMH:
West Australian universities are on a dangerous path, according to WA academics who say the pursuit of international money and federal funding has turned them into research businesses.
The whistleblowers warn some of the state’s most important institutions are caught in a vicious cycle of chasing expensive researchers and getting more research papers published in prestigious journals in order to climb global university rankings, which in turn delivers lucrative international students whose fees – in turn – help fund more research.
The WA academics say the chase for what is now the measure of success – university rankings – has corrupted their fundamental mission: to deliver quality education to students.
At one end of the operation sits university management, earning close to seven-figure salaries and overseen by senates dominated by external business leaders without substantive experience in the higher education sector.
At the other sits their clients – the students – whose university experience and breadth of study disciplines are being squeezed by narrowing fields of research.
And in the middle are the academics, who have been increasingly segregated into working as either researchers or teachers, while ever-mounting teaching workloads are falling to casuals or PhD students and junior academics on ‘minimum wage’ grant money.
Academics from three of the four public WA universities, some who have spoken to WAtoday under the condition of anonymity, say the situation has become exploitative and are calling for a royal commission into higher education…
Australia hosts the highest-paid university salaries in the world, with a vice-chancellor getting an average $1 million a year, which soars to $1.2 million if the university is counted among the Go8.
MB has continually questioned the odious links between international students and university rankings.
In a nutshell, a system has been created by the federal government and Australia’s universities to encourage strong growth in full fee paying international students via:
- The Australian government offering the world’s most generous student visa working rights and opportunities for permanent residency; and
- Australia’s universities dropping entry and teaching standards.
The bounty from exploding student numbers (see next chart) has then been funneled into research aimed purely at propelling Australia’s universities up international rankings, rather than into areas that actually provides benefits to Australians.
As gaining a higher ranking equates to more prestige and is a sign of quality, these rankings were then used as a marketing tool to further grow international student enrolments, alongside justifying higher fees.
While universities ploughed the international student billions into research to boost their rankings, actual teaching quality was destroyed.
This is evidenced by the ratio of students to academic staff rising materially across Australia’s universities during the long international student boom:
The majority of international students come from Non-English Speaking Backgrounds (NESB), and require more teaching assistance than domestic students. As such, the bigger student loads, alongside the higher maintenance of international students, indicates a significant decline of both teaching capacity and quality across Australia’s university system.
We also witnessed domestic students carrying NESB students through their courses via group assignments, alongside an increase in soft marking scandals and cheating scandals and the erosion of free speech as international students number ballooned.
The whole stinking university edifice needs a royal commission to clean it out.
Operating low-quality degree factories for maximum revenue was never in the national interest.
Australia’s universities must return to their primary role of providing high quality education to Australians.