Declining uni student numbers
The news that the number of university students is declining is far from surprising. The number of Australian students commencing degrees has been roughly static since the Howard government was elected and, contrary to election commitments, imposed broad-ranging cuts on the sector. Writing in the Oz, and also at Catallaxy, Andrew Norton argues that this isn’t a problem.
Norton makes a reasonable case that the decline is due more to a reduction in HECS-funded places than to increases in fees, but since both are policies of the same government, this is a distinction without a difference.
Norton continues with the general line that a contraction in the supply of university graduates isn’t a problem for Australia. His only evidence, though, is that some graduates are in jobs that don’t use their skills. As he concedes, this has always been the case, and the proportion hasn’t changed significantly. The BA driving a taxi was a stock figure in the 1970 (I knew several, so it wasn’t entirely an urban myth). It may well be that some relative expansion of TAFE would be a good thing, but we need expansion in postsecondary education across the board. In any case, TAFE has plenty of problems
Underinvestment in human capital is a big problem for Australia, and we will all pay the price in future.