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NTEU Media Release: Universities are more than skills factories

Posted 13 September 2010 by Michael Evans (NTEU National Office)

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) today welcomed the announcement of Senator Chris Evans to a portfolio responsible for Skills, taking in higher education and TAFE, and the reappointment of Senator Kim Carr to the portfolio of Innovation, Industry and Science, but reiterated concerns that a narrow focus on skills risks undervaluing the sector.

“Like many others in the higher education sector, NTEU is concerned about the message being sent to the Australian community and the rest of the world by including higher education under the ‘skills’ banner,” NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Matthew McGowan said today.

“There are significant challenges facing the sector in the immediate future with increasing demands for greater participation and a fragile international student market.  With a heavy skills focus, the government must be conscious of the broader responsibilities of the sector to the critical engagement with society and the world rather than merely skilling the labour force.”

“The ALP’s previous commitment to providing legislative protection for academic freedom is a clear indication that the government understands the fundamental role our universities play in research, innovation and contributing to the public debate on often contentious economic, social and cultural issues.  It is important that these messages are also communicated to the Australian public.”

“NTEU congratulates Senators Evans and Carr on their appointments and we look forward to working with them on the continuing need to reinvest in the higher education sector.  Key investments that have already been committed to include improved indexation, the full funding of research and a review of cluster funding arrangements.” 

“In particular NTEU believes further consultation is needed on the implementation of Mission Based Compacts and its relationship to the distribution of performance funding, the impacts of the demand driven student model, and whether the increased level of public funding provided to our universities in the 2009 Budget will be sufficient to enable them to meet the government’s objectives.”

For further information and comment:

Matthew McGowan, NTEU Vic Division Secretary, 0417 054 110

Paul Kniest, NTEU Research & Policy Co-ordinator, 0418 170 622


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