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									The Higher Education Base Funding
             Review


  Comments on the Base Funding Review
          Consultation Paper




                       31 March 2011




                        Contact: Michelle Grant
Policy Officer, International and National Policy, Engineers Australia
                  11 National Circuit Barton ACT 2600
                 Tel: 02 6270 6195 Fax: 02 6273 4200
              Email: mgrant@engineersaustralia.org.au
                      www.engineersaustralia.org.au
   The Higher Education Base Funding Review

   The Higher Education Base Funding Review


1. Introduction
   Engineers Australia is the peak body for engineering in Australia, representing all
   disciplines and branches of engineering. Engineers Australia has over 90,000 members
   Australia-wide, making Engineers Australia the largest and most diverse engineering
   association in Australia. All Engineers Australia members are bound by a common
   commitment to promote engineering and to facilitate its practice for the common good.

   In making this submission to the Higher Education Base Funding Review, Engineers
   Australia would like to acknowledge receipt of an advance copy of the submission made to
   the Review by the Australian Council of Engineering Deans (ACED). Engineers Australia
   would like to state our support for the views in the ACED submission. However, we would
   like to particularly emphasise the following matters in response to questions outlined in the
   Consultation Paper.

2. Responses to questions in the Consultation Paper
   1. General principles governing the level and distribution of government investment
   in higher education learning and teaching

   Q1.1 Government investment in higher education has been justified in terms of delivering
   benefits to the economy, benefits to society and equity of access for students from all
   socioeconomic backgrounds. Should these principles continue to be applied, and if so how
   should they be used to determine the appropriate level of government subsidy for the cost
   of universities’ learning and teaching activities?
   Engineers Australia supports the continued application of the three identified principles
   underpinning Government investment in higher education. In respect of engineering,
   government subsidy should be at such a level to ensure Australian universities are in a
   position to deliver world-class engineering education and prospective students are
   provided with the maximum opportunity to undertake engineering study. Additional system-
   wide support and incentives may be necessary to encourage greater participation of
   students from low socio-economic backgrounds and other under-represented groups,
   including women.

   Q1.2 What principles should determine the appropriate balance of resources contributed
   by:
          Government
          students
          other sources
   towards the cost of undergraduate and postgraduate education?
   Engineers Australia considers that total base funding must be adequate to provide world-
   class engineering education in most Australian universities, including those in regional
   areas. The student contribution in an economic two-component (Government and student)




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The Higher Education Base Funding Review

system should be at the highest level that does not deter prospective students from
engineering study. Principles that should contribute to determining the appropriate balance
of resources contributed to the cost of higher education include:
     the length of the degree program – engineering courses can be one to two years
       longer than in many other disciplines
     shortage of graduates in particular disciplines, such as engineering.

Q1.3 What other principles, if any, should influence the level and distribution of
government subsidies for tuition costs in higher education?
Engineers Australia believes that the Government should consider reducing the student
contribution for study in engineering, as an area of high graduate demand and inadequate
supply, as it has previously done in other areas.

2. A globally competitive level of base funding for course quality and student
engagement

Q2.1
No response.

Q2.2 What are the best international measures of student engagement that would provide
appropriate benchmarks to inform judgements about the appropriate level of base funding
for Australian universities?

Engineers Australia considers that inferred measures of student engagement, such as
attrition and graduation rates, are not relevant to setting the appropriate level of base
funding for Australian universities. A more appropriate measure would be to evaluate
student engagement with the discipline as a way of understanding the relative success of
universities to retain students in engineering study.

Q2.3 Is there a system of higher education funding in another country that would be a
useful benchmark model to inform Australia’s review of base funding?
Engineers Australia considers that comparative data from peer countries, such as
comparison of US-Australia student-staff ratios, can inform Australia’s needs for future
resourcing and funding of higher education.

Q2.4 What is the connection between the level of base funding and quality outcomes?
Calls on base funding are increasing, and the costs of many of the elements that are
required to ensure quality engineering education outcomes grow at a rate higher than the
normal rates of indexation. The rate of change in engineering technologies and
instrumentation require laboratory, demonstration plant and software to be upgraded at an
increasing rate. Quality engineering academics offer their services to a global university
and industry market; market attraction and retention loadings are common. Attracting




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The Higher Education Base Funding Review

engineering academics with recent industry experience are highly sought after, may
require special incentives.

The level of base funding should therefore be sufficient to ensure the continuous
improvement required to maintain the Australian engineering education system at world-
class standard.

3. The relative costs of quality teaching and student engagement at the
undergraduate level

Q3.1, Q3.2 & Q3.3
No response.

Q3.4 What additional costs are involved in the provision of work integrated learning and
should these be considered in setting the level of base funding?
Engineers Australia would strongly support base funding being increased to include fully
costed support for work integrated learning associated with the provision of good quality
industrial experience, as required for course accreditation.

Q3.5 & Q3.6
No response.

Q3.7 Should infrastructure investment continue to be supported by base funding?
The base funding model is preferred for infrastructure since it is fair to all institutions, and
essential to ensure quality education can be maintained. The competitive process is not
perfect in its choice of projects and is inevitably uneven in its disbursements. However,
there is merit in sharing high cost facilities. Whilst some physical facilities may be shared
between near-located metropolitan universities, the provision of high quality on-line
laboratory experiments such as those being developed in the LabShare project have
considerable national value. Adequate base funding would provide an opportunity for all
Australian engineering schools to participate in such a system.

Q3.8 What other factors, if any, should be taken into account in determining base funding
for teaching and learning in higher education?
The growth of online education within courses and subjects should be properly and
appropriately incorporated into the base funding model. In addition, consideration should
be given to how staffing and facilities for emerging engineering disciplines can be built up
rapidly in advance of the funding that comes with enrolled students.




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The Higher Education Base Funding Review

The Higher Education Base Funding Review

4. The relative costs of teaching at the postgraduate level
Q4.1 Is there a higher relative cost for postgraduate coursework degrees? If so why is
there a difference and what is the extent of the difference compared to an undergraduate
degree in the same discipline?
The diversity of postgraduate coursework degrees in engineering suggests that levels of
base funding are higher for some degrees. Advanced engineering specialisation programs,
for example, may have a higher relative cost where they incorporate components such as
extended laboratory-based projects.

Q4.2 Are there other factors that contribute to the costs of postgraduate coursework
degrees that should be acknowledged in the base funding?
The use of more sophisticated, and therefore more expensive, research-quality equipment
in advanced engineering specialisation programs mean that the costs of post-graduate
study are potentially greater than for the average undergraduate engineering programs.

5. The appropriate level of student contribution towards the cost of higher
education tuition

Q5.1 Are there general principles that should determine the maximum contribution a
student should make towards the cost of their education in a publicly funded higher
education system?
General principles to determine the maximum student contribution should include:
   The length of the degree program, and therefore the level deferred income through
     study. In engineering, courses can be one to two years longer than in many other
     disciplines.
   Skills shortages and the inadequate supply of graduates, as is currently the case in
     engineering.

Q5.2 In what circumstances should the level of students’ contribution towards the cost of
their courses be based on factors other than the cost of their tuition?
Engineers Australia considers that the low take-up of engineering study by women could
be improved by reducing the contribution for women students entering into engineering
programs.

Q5.3 Should the basis for determining the level of contribution by the student towards the
cost of their tuition be different at the postgraduate level?
See response to Q5.1.

6. A new base funding model

Q6.1, Q6.2 & Q6.3
No response.




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