Student choice and skill shortages: some effects of demand-driven funding. 

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 41: [Re] Valuing Higher Education

July, 2018, 266 pages
Published by
Dale Wache and Don Houston

In 2012, following the recommendations of the Bradley report, the Australian government removed the cap on government funding available to support university enrolment for eligible undergraduate domestic students attending public universities. The reform permitted public universities to receive Commonwealth support for all eligible students they enrolled, and to choose the course mix they offered. This change was termed ‘demand-driven’ funding. This paper analyses the effects of demand-driven funding on specialist social professions and focuses on student choice and responsiveness of universities to skill shortages. The research combines document analysis with trend data for undergraduate student enrolment in specialist social professions courses, to see how the availability of these courses has changed since the introduction of demand-driven student funding. The courses selected were youth work, disability and gerontology. These were selected because they are areas with an unmet demand for graduates, where recent social policy change means that specialist graduate expertise will be required to lead and evaluate change, and where there is no established professional accreditation body. The discussion examines the implications of demand-driven policy for student choice, and for the capacity of higher education to meet the needs of employers and of society. In conclusion the paper makes several recommendations for change, including a greater role for government in ensuring that universities offer courses that meet social needs.

Keywords: Bradley Report, higher education, specialist courses, employability