OPPOSITION Leader Tony Abbott will pledge to reduce the regulatory burden on Australia’s universities if elected and will encourage them to push further into the provision of virtual education.
The promises are part of a seven-point plan to be unveiled on Thursday at a higher education conference in Canberra.
Speech notes obtained ahead of the address suggest an Abbott-led Coalition government would also emphasise stability in government policy and incentives to ensure universities maintained their academic standing to protect the status of degrees obtained by students.
”First and most important, we will be a stable and consultative government … we understand that stability and certainty are important to everyone, including universities,” he will say.
”We will encourage universities and institutes to ensure that their research work is world-class, effectively delivered and well targeted.”
There will also be an emphasis on ”reducing their regulatory and compliance burden”. ”Outside officials shouldn’t be trying to micro-manage universities or bury them in reporting requirements,” he will say.
But it is in the area of online learning that Mr Abbott wants universities to move more aggressively, such as their development of the increasingly popular Massive Open Online Courses or ”MOOCs”.
MOOCs are large-scale university courses in which vast numbers of people from around the world can participate.
They usually have different assessment methods from traditional university courses but can be useful in promoting the prestige of the university offering them.
”These have obvious potential to make higher education more widely available but, equally obviously, also pose a challenge to established methods and institutions,” Mr Abbott will tell the sector.
■Foreign Minister Bob Carr has called for an overhaul of state-federal relations, saying the states should be given more power and that the Council of Australian Governments should be radically changed.
”Let’s get serious, let’s strip the COAG agenda right back,” he said. ”Let’s focus on six things. Let’s give the states something meaningful to do.”
Senator Carr’s suggestion would be a significant overhaul as COAG has more than 60 items on its agenda.
Senator Carr made similar comments when he was premier of New South Wales. They echo statements made earlier this week by another former NSW premier, Nick Greiner. Mr Greiner said COAG was ”grossly overburdened” and needed to focus on fewer issues if it wanted to achieve meaningful reform.
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