ME EDCN814: Discussion Post
Tonight, because I am running late, is my weekly discussion post for EDCN814. I am pretty certain that I have missed the point – but I really didn’t want to talk about TEQSA.
The topic for tonight’s post is:
Can you identify the key national or international assessment agenda in your sector? Who is driving this agenda? What assumptions are being made? Under what conditions are these assumptions likely to be realised?
What is the national agenda
Within the Australian Tertiary Sector one of the apparent focuses of the national agenda is the creation of a common (transferable) higher education marketplace. This is similar to the Howard administration desire to “…develop a national market in school education.” (Cobbold, 2009, p. 9). While this does not seem like an assessment agenda, the creation of a common higher education marketplace can only be achieved if there is sufficient transferability of education units (courses/topics) between institutions across the nation. The transferability of these units is dependent on minimum commonality of learning outcomes and assessment practices. Without the creation of more common and reliable assessment practices this could not be achieved.
Who is driving the agenda?
- Federal Government
- The Tertiary Sector itself
What assumptions are being made?
- Higher education should be transferable, no skills or content should be so unique that it cannot be transferred to another institution. All institutions should be able to provide credit for the work successfully completed at other recognised institutions.
- That it is the government’s role to intervene and create the market (Smith, 2005, p. 2).
- Students can and will vote with their feet.
- competition is good and will result in increased standards (improve or die)
Under what conditions are these assumptions likely to be realised?
The common education marketplace is in the process of being realised, students are able to transfer their completed unit credits from one university to another with few limitations. However, this does not mean that the assumptions that are being made are being realised.
The evolution of the university system is such that unique research (and historically thus) unique teaching have been developed and provided to students. These legacies of the intellectual origins of universities remain within the contemporary tertiary system (often in spite of the best efforts of administration) and provide at least some non-transferable skills and content – such as specialisations in Marine Archaeology.
These origins also have implications for the willingness of these institutions to accept that it is the government’s role to regulate them. This has been consistently debated, with the most recent battle focusing in deregulation of fees and the implementation of TEQSA.
In order for the common market to initially develop it was necessary for the government to manipulate the way that Universities were paid for their teaching of students. First with the devolution of calculation of payments from the award level down to the topic/course level. Second with the deregulation of student fees. However, for students to be able to vote with their feet they will need to be able to transfer beyond their territorial boundaries in a national market place (rather than cycling around their own state institutions) and this seems unlikely to occur without additional support or funding cost of living increases and moving. Without this it is likely that rather than a competitive national marketplace, Australia will have 6 city marketplaces – in those cities where multiple universities are present – resulting in marketplaces where many universities compete against one another for a limited pool of new high school graduates and retraining professionals.
For competition within the higher education sector is to result in improved learning outcomes then it is likely to need rigorous regulation. The underlying assumption about competition leading to better educational outcomes can be said to be based on the expectation that students are seeking good education and rigorous learning from their university experience. When they don’t get good education they then seek out better institutions to provide them with better education. But what if students are highly strategic and seeking only the fastest way from entry to graduation? In this situation a national marketplace with transferable credits is likely to lead to a race to the bottom. At least part of the market will transfer to those institutions that offer the fastest degrees with the least obstacles to the end. Very similar to the perverse outcomes experienced when high stakes testing has been implemented in various countries (Klenowski & Wyatt-Smith, 2012).
Cobbold, T. (2009). League Tables. Professional Educator, 8(1), 8-11.
Klenowski, V., & Wyatt-Smith, C. (2012). The impact of high stakes testing: The Australian story. Assessment in education: Principles, policy & practice, 19(1), 65-79.
Smith, K. (2005) Mind the Gap. 2005 Curriculum Corporation Conference