Universities and Government dig in on funding cuts


Universities and Government dig in on funding cuts

by Tim Dodd – Education editor
11 September 2017

Key Takeaways:

  1. Former ANU dean Keith Houghton presented university productivity data at a summit, showing variations in the cost of research paper production and student education.
  2. Some universities have improved productivity over time, while others show no progress.
  3. Dr. Houghton’s work gained attention from Education Minister Simon Birmingham and regulators, becoming a potential tool for analyzing university productivity in research and teaching.
  4. Universities’ productivity will face increased scrutiny, and they may need to address inefficiencies.

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Full Article:

“….Former Australian National University business and economics dean Keith Houghton attached much attention at the summit with his university productivity data that showed wide variations across the sector in the cost of producing each research paper and educating each student. It stated there is a lot of room in many universities to become more efficient.

Individual universities can argue that there have particular circumstances that might make their operations more costly. But Dr Houghton’s data also shows how their productivity have changed over years. Some universities improved, including UNSW which steadily grew its research productivity under former vice chancellor Fred Hilmer who brought in McKinsey style management to the university. And Gardner can take credit for the productivity improvement at RMIT which she led from 2005 to 2014. But other universities which have not yet been publicly identified by Dr Houghton have not improved. Their progress over time resembles the drunkard’s walk – random movements back and forth with no overall progress.

In the past fortnight, there has been a wave of interest in the work of Dr Houghton who is now retired for the ANU……He has been praised by Education Minister Simon Birmingham and he has attracted interest of those with regulatory and performance oversight over higher education. The stage now set for his work to be developed and refined to become an important tool to analyse university productivity in both research and teaching – at a deep level to help identify problems For universities, the scrutiny on their productivity will only increase. There will be nowhere to hide….”


Last week in The Australian, Australian National University economics professors Bruce Chapman and Rabee Tourky reignited a debate about a levy on international student tuition revenue (“Universities should pay levy on ‘foreign student industry’ ”, 15/11).

For several weeks, those interested in higher education have been contemplating the interim report of the Universities Accord review. The report makes many insightful and far-reaching observations. Undoubtedly it will be a turning point for important aspects of the educational offerings within our public universities.

It’s now virtually certain that the South Australian Legislative Council, the state’s upper house, will initiate a parliamentary inquiry into the planned merger of the state’s two largest universities.

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