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Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The government has released its Universities Accord report, produced by a committee chaired by Mary O’Kane, a former vice-chancellor at the University of Adelaide.

The recommendations will be considered by the Minister for Education, Jason Clare and the government over the coming months, although Clare has given a few hints about what his response might be on certain issues.

One proposal Clare clearly favours is for an Australian Tertiary Education Commission which the report says would “provide the leadership and stewardship necessary to transform the tertiary education system”. Clare says it would give

the ability to steer and drive reform over the long term. This [accord] is a blueprint for 20 years, not for two years – it strikes me as a good idea.

The report canvasses a range of changes to assist students cope better financially. One is to pay students for time spent in (now unpaid) placements, which are often extensive in courses such as nursing and teaching. Clare is sympathetic.

I’ve spent the last year or so in this job talking to students. They tell me about the impact that has, often having to move to do the prac – having to give up the part-time job, working in the cafe or the restaurant or wherever else, to do unpaid work, and sometimes having to give up the degree […]. The theory can’t do the prac, can’t get the qualifications. So it strikes me this is the sort of thing that governments need to work on. And as I said, this is the sort of thing that I want us to have a look at.

On why the government isn’t hastening to do more now, Clare describes why he takes the long-term view.

Often we get criticised in government for just having quick fixes or thinking about what’s around the corner, what’s the immediate problem that needs to be solved. If we’re serious about fixing things in education, you’ve got to think long term.

The Conversation

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

ref. Politics with Michelle Grattan: Jason Clare on the future of education in Australia –