The event’s host, David Sweeney, executive chair designate at Research England and a director at HEFCE, opened by remarking that along with the similarities in the two systems, it must be noted that “there are things that assume ginormous importance in one country, but are just taken for granted in the other”.
But the nations also share ideas. Indeed, Simon Marginson, professor of international HE at UCL, and director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, made the point that UK universities feel able to borrow ideas from their Australian counterparts because, “they see Australia as part of the family”. One of the areas this learning is taking place is performance-related funding.
“It’s quite difficult to argue against having a proportion of your grant that you’ve got to earn”
The trials of performance-related government funding were discussed by vice chancellor of Queensland University of Technology, Peter Coaldrake. Previous efforts have resulted in mixed outcomes, he said.
“[Of] the first instalment of funds that occurred in 2005, about A$54m was distributed across the sector at the time, of which five institutions received the bulk, a number of others received some crumbs, and 24 which were less impressed with the matter, received nothing at all,” he said.
Since 2014 there has been no performance-linked funding, but Australian politicians are now proposing that 5% of government grants will need to be earned. Coaldrake said he doesn’t have any issue with that proposal.
“It’s quite difficult to argue against having a proportion of your grant that you’ve got to earn,” he said.
The UK does not currently base its government grants on performance, though the TEF does aim to rate the university’s performance.
And according to HEFCE, “the government has previously indicated that universities and colleges in England that have a TEF award will be able to increase their tuition fees in line with inflation”, and thereby gain financial reward for good overall performance.