The diversification of Australian higher education: Is the academy prepared for the challenge?

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Research and Development in Higher Education Vol. 33 : Reshaping Higher Education

July, 2010, 654 pages
Published by
M. Devlin, J. Nagy and A. Lichtenberg
0 908557 80 9

The last two decades have witnessed diversification of the Australian higher education student cohort with the introduction of the Dawkins reforms in the late 1980s. Further diversification and reshaping of the higher education landscape is now anticipated in response to the recommendations of the 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education, also known as the Bradley Report. In preparation for these changes a number of serious questions need to be asked: Are institutions prepared in terms of the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to support further diversification and expansion of the sector? How will universities support academic teaching staff to cope with further diversification and the ensuing increase in overall student numbers? Given the current reality of staff struggling to provide adequate support for the number of ‘new’ learners that have entered universities in the last two decades this will be a challenge for institutions on several levels. In considering the learning and teaching literature including aspects of diversity and inclusivity, this paper argues that institutions are under-skilled and unprepared to deal with a further diversified student cohort. It explores what an even more diversified student cohort might look like and the knowledge, skills and attitudes academics will need to teach this newer, expanding group of students. It outlines the challenges and opportunities ahead for institutions in preparing for the new tertiary landscape and considers possible ways forward to ensure that the continued reshaping of higher education delivers quality learning and teaching for all.

Keywords: higher education, diversity, teaching