The Business Council of Australia has welcomed the focus of the Bradley review of higher education on greater participation in higher education.
Chairman of the BCA Task Force on Education, Skills and Innovation, Hutch Ranck, said extending Australia’s knowledge and skills base was crucial to achieve strong economic growth and address disadvantage.
At the same time, improved participation levels must be matched by lifting the quality and relevance of what is taught, Mr Ranck said.
“Higher education courses need to meet the requirements of employers, including private industry. While increased investment is part of what is required, this must be directly linked to achieving improved outcomes in teaching and learning as well as in research.
“The BCA’s submission to the Review of the Australian Higher Education System emphasised the need for every student to be provided with high-quality teaching that is up-to-date and relevant. This means that every graduate must have acquired the knowledge and skills of their chosen field, as well as the ability to effectively apply their skills in collaboration with others.
“The Bradley report’s recommendations to establish targets for improving the quality of teaching and to emphasise learning outcomes are to be applauded.
“The BCA would like to see further work undertaken on developing outcome targets for research. With respect to applied research, business is seeking more effective collaboration arrangements, including the opportunity to engage in setting directions for research projects at the earliest possible stage,” he said
Mr Ranck said the BCA also supported the proposal to allocate places according to student demand, provided the system supported good decision making by students.
“In order for a student-centred model to work effectively, it is vital that the education sector, government and industry improve the quality, timeliness and effective delivery of information about skills needs and career opportunities.
“We also welcome the recommendations to move to a much greater level of integration between vocational education and training and higher education.
“A vocational education and training pathway should be as equally valid and valued as a higher education qualification. Therefore, there needs to be better recognition of learning, transfer arrangements, and wider coordination between the two systems. Incentives to encourage institutions to be proactive in this area would be an important step forward.
“A single national regulator responsible for all tertiary education and training would contribute to the integration of the training and higher education sectors.
“In addition, regional institutions provide opportunities for people who face significant disadvantages, including Indigenous Australians.
“The proposals to address problems in the delivery of higher education in regional communities are worthy of careful consideration.
“Overall, the Bradley report provides a solid basis for improving Australia’s higher education system.
“Business will continue to emphasise the need to make additional investment dependent on improving the quality and relevance of both teaching and learning and research outcomes,” he said.