A new report by the Grattan Institute makes a strong case for the continuation of Australia’s open access university policy, said Acting Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology, Professor Jennelle Kyd and CEO of Swinburne Online, Ms Denice Pitt.
“Reforms to the Australian higher education system introduced in 2009 have made it possible for thousands more students who qualify to attend Australian universities and for institutions to develop new and innovative approaches to educational delivery,” said Professor Kyd.
“While successive Governments have placed a high value on the diversity of the Australian university sector, the creation of a competitive market amongst Australian universities has been a breakthrough. It’s allowed innovation to flourish and genuinely new models of delivery to be created.”
The creation of Swinburne Online – and the significant growth that it has experienced in response to student demand – has been one of the many success stories of the demand driven system.
As today’s Grattan report “Keep the caps off! Student access and choice in higher education” observes:
Swinburne could not have created Swinburne Online under the old system of Commonwealth-supported places allocated by government. They would have needed to go through a slow political process to get new places, with no recent precedent for such a large number of new students at a single institution. Bureaucrats and politicians would have agonised over a joint venture with a for-profit company. Redistributing large numbers of places from within Swinburne’s pre-2012 allocation would also have been politically difficult. Staff and student constituencies would (understandably) have resisted undermining viable courses for a venture that may not succeed. As it has turned out, Swinburne Online offers an innovative form of online education, for which there is strong market demand.
Swinburne Online students are capable working Australians for whom on-campus study is not possible as a consequence of their full-time work or familial commitments. 23.4% of these students are from low-SES backgrounds and 23.1% are from regional areas.
“Swinburne Online has made it much easier for students in rural and remote locations to access the same educational opportunities as those residing in metropolitan areas,” said Ms Denice Pitt, CEO of Swinburne Online.
“We have been able to expand access to higher education by delivering high quality university programs totally online – offering flexibility and hence access to higher education for students who are unable or unwilling to study on-campus.”
“Much of Swinburne Online’s success can be attributed to our student-centric model and its focus in providing students with high level support and a strong social community.”
To date, Swinburne Online offers 14 different degrees in Business, Education, Communication and Social Science. Now serving more than 5,000 students, it offers students a highly engaging learning experience, with academic support from teaching staff who are trained in online delivery and dedicated student support, available seven days a week and also outside traditional working hours.
“With improvements in teaching and access to technology, there is now more choice as to how people access university studies, both on-campus and online. This can only serve to improve the social and economic wellbeing of Australian communities through improving education levels and the nation’s professional base,” concluded Professor Kyd.