Friday, August 20, 2010

Higher Education in Australia: What we pay

Whilst working in NZ, I looked into how higher education and training is paid for there.

Now I'm back in Australia, I've encountered a reason to ask the same questions here. It turns out very few of my colleagues know how higher education is paid for exactly.

I've sent a couple of emails to people who probably do know, but while I wait for their advice I thought I'd do some digging of my own. Where do you look when you have no idea where to start? Wikipedia of course: Tertiary education fees in Australia. Reference note 12 there, points to a page credited to the Australian Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations called, What you pay.The actual DEEWR site is a total nightmare!

According to What you pay, Australian higher education and training is paid for publicly and privately. The public funding is called a Commonwealth Contribution and the private funding is called a Student Contribution. These two revenue streams are both derived through each student studying a full time load.

The Commonwealth Contribution

The amount of Commonwealth Contribution is determined by the study load a student has, and the subject of study. A student studying a full time load brings in 1 unit of Commonwealth Contribution. Several students studying part time, combine to make up the equivalent of 1 full time student. One full Commonwealth Contribution is called an EFTLS (Equivalent Full Time Study Load). This is what EFTSLs are worth at the moment:

So for each eligible student an institution has on its books studying a full time load in say - education, it receives $9020 of Commonwealth Contributions. 7 full time dental students bring that institution 7 x $19235. 50 full time visual art students bring 50 x $10662. I'm told that the number of EFTSL Commonwealth Contributions is ultimately capped, meaning an institution can only claim a limited number of Commonwealth Contributions each year, but finding out that cap is a little difficult so far.

The Student Contribution

The Commonwealth contributions are not the only revenue source that Institutions rely on to fund their educational services. There is also the Student Contribution. Each institution determines how much they will charge a student on top of the Commonwealth Contribution that student brings in. This amount is regulated to some degree, as follows:

So an institution offering education in law for example, can charge a full time student between $0 - $8859 per year, on top of the Commonwealth Contributions that their full time students bring in. Assuming they charge the full amount allowed for a Student Contribution, the revenue that one full time law student brings in per year is $10625 ($1765 Commonwealth Contribution, plus $8859 Student Contribution).

How much is that per unit?

A single unit of study is not a full time load, it is a percentage of a full time load. How might a student or a teacher of a unit calculate their expenditure and revenue? Assuming the institution is charging the maximum amount allowed in the Student Contribution, they would work out the percentage of the full time study load of the unit, and transfer that across to both the Commonwealth and Student contribution per EFTLS.

For example:

Leigh takes a unit in Illich studies within an education faculty. The unit is 3 credit points, or 150 hours - which is a quarter of a full time load in a semester, or an eighth of a full time load in a year. Therefore, to calculate the revenue and fee of this unit:

Commonwealth Contribution: $9020 x 0.125 = $1127.50
Student Contribution: $5310 x 0.125 = $663.75
Per student revenue for the unit in Illich studies = $1791.25


I'm not sure how much design or media students bring in, and I suppose a student that studies units across a spectrum of these subject categories, bring in a percentage of these amounts relative to study load in each of those units.

I'm also unsure of how the differences in funding and fees are determined. At first I thought it was based on the costs  of offering educational services in those areas, where I assumed dentistry and medicine were more expensive to run than law or accounting. But then, its likely I'd say, that the visual and performing arts are more expensive subjects to teach than engineering, science and surveying - especially considering other funding streams open to them. Then I thought it might be determined based on the expected income of a graduate, so the higher the salary that is expected for a graduate, the lower the Commonwealth Contribution. But then, a dentist stands to earn a lot more than an accountant. So the logic of the amounts in a Commonwealth Contribution seems consistent. This inconsistency, along with the footnotes in table 1, suggest the Commonwealth contributions go to political priorities term by term.

Finally, it is important to know what the cap is for Commonwealth Contributions to an institution. A rediculously low cap would completely change the implications of the numbers I have here so far.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

More skiing.. the season is short. Mount Twynam

Robbie, Thor and I head out to Guthega together to climb Mount Twynam, and ski down to Blue Lake. We were expecting fresh powder from the days before, but found nasty ice sheets and variable wind blow. It wasn't until we were half way down the fantastic Blue Lake Creek above Blue Lake itself, that we finally found our powder.

After the mammoth traverse back, and having climbed a total of 800m, and skied and traversed some 20km, we were all totally shagged. It was another wonderful day in the backcountry though.. :)


Map with embedded panoramas

View Track 5 in a larger map

Webism: The Internet as Social Movement

The wonderful re-enters my life with their latest 'manifesto' The Internet as Social Movement, (lifted from issue 9 of n+1, a twice-yearly print journal of politics, literature, and culture).

Reading it reminded me of my own, far less eloquent post, Transparency, openness, trade and politics, where I tried to question the motives and consequences of our efforts to change the status quo in education..

The Internet as Social Movement, or Webism for short, asks the same question. With a brilliant introduction that paints the picture of the chaotic, crazy and seemingly empty claims of a web2 type revolution, it quietens tone with a tragic looks back to the Bolshevik revolution in early 20th century Russia.

Alexander Blok was enchanted by the Bolshevik Revolution. The leading poet of the pre-revolutionary symbolist school, Blok and his pale handsome face had been freighted in the years before 1917 with all the hopes and dreams of the Russian intelligentsia. In early 1918, when that intelligentsia was still making fun of the crudeness, the foolishness, the presumption of the Bolsheviks—the way contemporary intellectuals once made fun of Wikipedia—Blok published an essay urging them to cut it out. “Listen to the Revolution,” he counseled, “with your bodies, your hearts, your minds.”

Three years later, Blok was dead, and Vladimir Mayakovsky, the tribune of the Revolution, wrote his obituary. “Blok approached our great Revolution honestly and with awe,” Mayakovsky wrote. But it was too much for him: “I remember, in the first days of the Revolution, I passed a thin, hunched-over figure in uniform warming itself by a fire near the Winter Palace. The figure called out to me. It was Blok. We walked together. . . . I said, ‘How do you like it?’ ‘It’s good,’ said Blok, and then added: ‘They burned down my library.’”
The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet The 'manifesto' goes on the explain the Internet as a social revolution in a linear fashion, much the same way that the documentary The Net: The Unabomber, LSD and the Internet does.

The manifesto then finishes with:
The mistake that many supporters of the Bolsheviks made was to think that, once the old order had been abolished, the new order would be fashioned in the image of the best of them rather than the worst. But the revolution is not just something you carry inside you; the web is not your dream of the web. It is a real thing, playing out its destiny in the world of flesh and steel—and pixels, and books. 
And perhaps most chillingly for me:
At this point the best thing the web and the book could do for one another would be to admit their essential difference. This would allow the web to develop as it wishes, with a clear conscience, and for literature to do what it’s always done in periods of crisis: keep its eyes and ears open; take notes; and bide its time.
Where I would replace "books" and "literature" with academia and education...