In its interim report From learning to growth, released yesterday, the Commission noted that price differences between courses are unlikely to change what students choose to study.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said Australia’s future prosperity hinges on having more skilled workers across all sectors of the economy, not fewer.
“The Productivity Commission notes that ‘rationing’ places ‘impedes’ the efficient acquisition of skills by limiting access or distorting course choice,” Ms Jackson said.
“Universities educate the skilled workers and produce the research breakthroughs that drive economic growth – both of which are key levers to lifting productivity and prosperity.
“In the face of critical skill shortages, economic uncertainty and a changing domestic and global environment, our universities will play an even greater role as we move into the future.
“We need a funding model that reflects our broad student base, and one that recognises universities’ importance to meeting our labour market needs and driving Australia’s long-term productivity.
“Equity and accessibility are hallmarks of Australia’s world-leading university system, and these values should be reflected in the way that we fund higher education.
“We are pleased that the Job-ready Graduates package will be closely examined, among other issues, through the Government’s Universities Accord process.
“The Productivity Commission’s report has challenged a number of the assumptions underpinning the Job-ready Graduates package. This analysis will provide useful input to the Accord discussion.
“Australia needs a strong university system that delivers in our national interest, and we look forward to working with the Government to achieve that through the Accord process and beyond.”
Universities Australia also welcomes the Commission’s suggestion to ensure public funding supports ongoing skill acquisition.
“To ensure Australia has the pipeline of workers that employers and the economy need to grow and prosper, we need to make it easier for people to retrain and upskill,” Ms Jackson said.
“At present, short courses or a microcredential require payment up front, and fees aren’t tax deductible unless the course relates to a person’s current job. We can fix this problem by extending income contingent loans to anyone undertaking short courses and microcredentials.
“We look forward to engaging with the Productivity Commission as it prepares the final report.”