Although performance-based funding for the Higher Education sector has been mooted for a number of years, the prospect of vague talk turning into concrete reality took a step closer in December, with the publication of the Government’s discussion paper — Performance-based funding for the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. In fact, that step is closer than might have anticipated with the paper setting out a timeline of the first assessments taking place in August 2019, and with the allocation of funds being decided and communicated by September of October.
The rationale behind performance-based funding set out in the paper is the desire to ensure that universities are making the best use of public money, with those who can demonstrate that they are rewarded with extra funding, and those who are failing given the incentive to improve. According to the paper:
“Australians expect their taxpayer-funded public universities to deliver quality higher education … A performance-based funding scheme will ensure universities’ objectives align with those of their students, the Government and the public.”
The paper puts forward a number of different performance measures including attrition/retention, completions, student satisfaction and widened participation. One of the most crucial measurements is that of demonstrating good employment outcomes. It is also perhaps the one that will prove to be the greatest challenge, since achieving it successfully requires a two-fold approach, both of which are perhaps a little out of the comfort zone of most universities.
The first part of the approach is all about understanding and demonstrating the employment outcomes of past graduates. Simply put, successfully achieving this means being able to answer the following questions:
- Where do our students end up after graduating?
- What occupations are they employed in?
- Which employers are they working for?
- What skills are they using?
The second part of the approach is all about improving the outcomes of future graduates. To achieve this, a university needs to be able to fine tune its portfolio to align better with the needs of employers, therefore improving the chances of current and future students entering employment in an occupation related to their field of study.
Although these challenges can be treated separately, the overarching solution to both is the same: better insight. How do you understand and demonstrate the employment outcomes of past graduates? Better insight on where they have ended up, what occupations they do, who they work for and the skills they are using. How can you align your portfolio more closely with what employers are looking for? Better insight to understand employer demand, and how your courses relate to it.
We produced a 3-Step Guide at the end of last year, which explains in more detail how better insight can be used to answer these questions (you can download a copy by clicking on the front cover). Excitingly, on the question of graduate outcomes, we are shortly to have profiles data for the whole of Australia, which will mean that every university in the country will be able to not only understand the employment destinations of their former students, but will also be able to demonstrate this to a variety of stakeholders, including those assessing claims for funding should the performance-based funding become a reality later this year. More on this soon. Watch this space!
Although the announcement of performance-based funding will no doubt have produced a collective groan across the Higher Education sector, the timetable given in the discussion paper makes it clear that (barring a new Government in May) it could well be in play before the year is out. For those universities who want to get ahead of the curve in terms of understanding their graduates’ employment outcomes, and in developing a portfolio that is likely to lead to good future employment outcomes, better insight is going to be essential.
To discuss how we can help you understand and improve the employment outcomes of your graduates, contact us now.