ATSE calls for rethink on higher education reform

By on 18 August, 2020

The ATSE has warned of adverse impacts to STEM education and careers in the federal government’s proposed reform package for higher education. Image: The CSIRO’s telescope compact array at Narrabri.

The Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) has warned that the federal government’s proposed changes to higher education will have a lasting impact on STEM careers.

The ATSE today issued a strong call for the federal government to rethink its approach to proposed reform of the higher education sector, warning that the shape of the draft legislation does not align with stated objectives.

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said that the academy has called for incentives to encourage educational choices that lead to jobs of national priority, such as STEM — but early analysis showed that the proposed funding model may narrow the pipeline of STEM-skilled workers, rather than increasing it.

“A foreseeable outcome would see less STEM places being offered by universities, rather than more,” said Ms Walker.

“ATSE is very concerned about this possible outcome – particularly at a time when the economy needs all the STEM innovation it can access to develop and manufacture a vaccine, and then drive Australia out of recession.”

Ms. Harris also said that the timing for once-in-a-decade structural reform was poor, recommending that more time was needed to better model the effects of the proposed policies.

“The sector is already responding to a major crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is therefore a challenging time to also consider and respond to a proposal for major sectoral reform,” she said.

“ATSE welcomes the opportunity of contributing to this policy development, drawing on our fellowship of leaders across applied science, technology and engineering to achieve the desired objective of strengthening Australia’s STEM workforce.”

Education is Australia’s biggest service-based export, and the tertiary sector has suffered a massive downturn since the Covid-19 pandemic began with a the loss of many international students, a major source of revenue. The exclusion of universities from the JobKeeper financial support scheme further exacerbated losses in the sector.

Read the ATSE’s submission on the draft legislation at their website.

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