The Australian Government has released the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report calling on five ‘modest’ and ‘sensible’ priority actions to be considered immediately.
The report, which came out on Wednesday 19 July, outlines five immediate actions the Accord Panel has identified, including working with State and Territory government to improve ‘university governance’, abolishing the 50 per-cent pass rule and extending funding to First Nations students.
“To successfully tackle our big national priorities – including lifting economic productivity … our higher education sector must be much, much stronger,” the report reads.
“So much needs to be done and higher education policy must respond. System-wide change is essential and must get underway as soon as possible … The overall goal of the reform must be growth for skills through greater equity.”
“To help close the gap in First Nations participation in higher education, consideration should also be given to the creation of a First Nations Higher Education Council.”
Whilst only 36 per-cent of the Australian universities currently have a university degree, the report estimates 55 per-cent of Australians could have a degree by 2050 if 300,000 more students are enrolled.
Chair of the Australian Universities Accord Panel Professor Mary O’Kane says higher education is ‘essential to national prosperity’ and believes it is the pathway to building a more ‘equitable, fair society’.
“Higher education is a powerful vehicle for transformative change at individual, community and societal levels,” Ms O’Kane said.
“We have heard, and continue to hear, a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of education in Australia. This is vitally important to understand how we can address future challenges and opportunities faced by the sector.”
“We look forward to receiving feedback on the Interim Report and to continuing this important work,” she says.
One of the report’s priority actions is to cease the 50 per-cent pass rule due to it’s ‘poor equity impacts’, replacing it with ‘increased reporting on student progress’.
“The 50 per-cent pass rule disproportionately disadvantages students from equity backgrounds. Enhanced reporting on student progress will increase the focus on improving the success rates of at-risk students,” the report reads.
“This change should proceed at the first possible opportunity.”
However, Curtin University student Alec Hasegawa is hesitant to believe the report’s proposition to abolish the 50 per-cent pass rule is a good idea.
“I think so many students are already just trying to get 50 per-cent, so if they lower the bar, people will try even less,” Mr Hasegawa said.
“If you’re failing it shows you don’t know anything, so why do you deserve a degree? Like even getting under 50 per-cent in just one test shows they don’t know the content … I just think it’s stupid they’re thinking of abolishing it.”
“Other people work so much harder [so] why do you deserve a degree when you’re doing the bare minimum?” he says.