Australian Learning and Teaching Council

28 January 2011

Australian Government

The precarious nature of academic professional development is always lurking in the back of the minds of those of us working in the field. Last year seven of the eight New Zealand universities reviewed their development activities and Ako Aotearoa is preparing for significant changes in their future. So perhaps its not surprising to see Australia chop back as well:

"Funding for the Australian Learning and Teaching Council will be discontinued from 1 January 2012, providing savings of $88 million over four years. The Government remains committed to continuing to improve the quality of higher education in Australia, and is establishing new quality and regulatory arrangements for higher education through: a new national regulatory and quality agency, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency; a new National Register of Higher Education Providers; a new Higher Education Standards Framework; and the My University website."

On one level this seems to be a very short-sighted decision, seemingly a result of the need to generate funding for disaster relief. However I don't necessarily think this is the entire explanation. What remains funded are the instruments of accountability and control. Academic professional development is about improvement and quality and I sense a trend by Governments in a number of countries to distance themselves from these aspects.

That shift makes no sense if you see higher education in terms of publicly owned institutions with a strong societal mandate, but it makes a lot more sense if you regard it as just another service industry. Improvement thus remains the responsiblity of the institutions themselves, lets hope that the Australian universities continue to recognise the benefits of a well-supported academic workforce.