Programme 3.3 Higher Education Support

The objectives of Programme 3.3 are to improve higher education access and participation and to ensure that the quality of our higher education system is maintained. This includes the provision of high-quality infrastructure for teaching and learning.

Programme 3.3 components contribute to achieving the programme objectives through:

  • promoting and supporting change in higher education institutions for the enhancement of learning and teaching through the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme
  • independently administering quality indicators for learning and teaching that increase focus on quality and provide better information for student choice
  • targeted initiatives to promote the importance of mathematics and science
  • improving access to, and participation and success in, higher education for students from low socio-economic status and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds
  • removing barriers to participation in higher education for students with disability
  • supporting the ongoing operations of a limited number of national institutes
  • supporting regional higher education institutions to improve the quality of training and education for regional students.

Provision of learning and teaching awards and grants

The Office for Learning and Teaching ( OLT) leads sustainable quality improvement in higher education; learning and teaching through a suite of grants; and fellowships and awards under the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme. The OLT encourages broad and deep dissemination of the work it funds to maximise impact. In addition to institution-led activities, this occurs through online communications, conferences and forums, and the facilitation of national networks, professional development and collaborative opportunities for academics.

The OLT is supported by a Strategic Advisory Committee which is chaired by a Vice-Chancellor and has membership from across the higher education sector. The committee provides guidance and advice to the Minister for Education and the OLT on issues of strategic importance in higher education; makes recommendations on the provision of grants, fellowships and awards to the Minister; and promotes the importance of learning and teaching.

Provision of supplementary support—Indigenous and low socio-economic status

The Higher Education Participation Programme aims to ensure that Australians from low socio-economic status (low SES) backgrounds who have the ability to study at university get the opportunity to do so. It provides funding to assist universities listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to undertake activities and implement strategies that improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low socio-economic status backgrounds as well as improve the retention and completion rates of those students.

Approaches taken by universities to support low SES prospective and current students under the programme include:

  • providing access to higher education via alternative entry schemes and scholarships
  • assisting students to succeed, once enrolled, through academic, peer and pastoral support
  • developing outreach activities in partnership with schools, TAFEs, other universities, state and territory governments and community groups to raise the aspirations and build the capacity of people from low SES backgrounds to participate in higher education.

The National Disability Coordination Officer Programme assists people with disability to access and participate in tertiary education and subsequent employment. Under the programme, a national network of 31 officers is funded to work with stakeholders at the local level to reduce systemic barriers, facilitate smooth transitions, build links and coordinate services between the education, training and employment sectors.

The Disability Support Programme assists students with disability to access higher education by funding universities listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 for a proportion of the cost of equipment and educational support services necessary for these students to undertake and complete their studies.

Support to promote engagement in maths and science

The Australian Maths and Science Partnerships Programme aims to improve student engagement in maths and science courses at university and schools through innovative partnerships between universities, schools, and other relevant organisations.

Support for tertiary education infrastructure

Under the Education Investment Fund $312.5 million has been provided to 11 regional universities to help them to improve the quality of training and education that regional students receive.

Support to universities for structural adjustment

The Structural Adjustment Fund ( SAF) provides $377.2 million to enable universities to make the changes necessary to secure longer-term financial stability and ensure that students have access to a high-quality teaching and learning experience.

Improved quality in higher education

Assuring the quality of higher education is a priority for the Government. Ensuring that student outcomes and student experiences are of high quality is vital to Australia’s economy and safeguards the reputation of Australia’s large education export market.

In 2013–14, the department began implementing the recommendations of the independent Review of Higher Education Regulation. Activities included issuing a Ministerial Direction to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency ( TEQSA) in October 2013, introducing the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment Bill 2014, and establishing the TEQSA Advisory Council. These actions are contributing to reducing and streamlining regulatory requirements to ensure that higher education institutions are able to focus on their core business of teaching students and conducting research.

Performance information

In 2013, 71.3 per cent of the bachelor degree graduates who were available for full-time work were employed full time four months after graduation, down from 76.1 per cent in 2012. The decline in graduate employment outcomes correlates with conditions in the general labour market over this period, during which unemployment rose slightly. The decline in graduate starting salaries relative to Male Average Weekly Earnings also reflects these soft labour market conditions, as well as continuing a long-term downward trend.

Table 13: Programme 3.3 Higher Education Support performance information

Provision of learning and teaching awards and grants

Deliverables 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Number of learning and teaching citations and awards provided to higher education providers by the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme 189 171
Number of learning and teaching projects supported by the Promotion of Excellence in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education programme 60 99

Provision of supplementary support–Indigenous and low socio-economic status

Deliverables 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Number of Indigenous students enrolled at funded institutions 12,700 13,281
Number of Indigenous completions at funded institutions 1,770 1,786
Number of domestic undergraduate low socio-economic status enrolments (Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme) 126,000 124,193

Provision of support for tertiary education infrastructure

Deliverables 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Value of funding for tertiary education infrastructure through Education Investment Fund (incl SAF- EIF) ($’000) 156,665 148,572

Provision of support to universities for structural adjustment

Deliverables 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Value of funding provided through the SAF-( HESA) ($’000) 1,257 1,257

Improved infrastructure for tertiary education

Key performance indicators 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Number of infrastructure projects supported—EIF and SAF 19 16

Improved quality in higher education

Key performance indicators 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Higher education graduates in full-time employment within four months of completion of degree as a proportion of those available for work 76.4% 71.3%
Graduate starting salaries as a proportion of Male Average Weekly Earnings 77.8% 74.3%

Increased participation by previously under-represented groups

Key performance indicators 2013—14 estimate 2013—14 actual
Number of domestic undergraduate low socio-economic status enrolments 126,000 124,193
Interim composite measure of the number of domestic undergraduates in low socio-economic status 103,000 113,105a
Number of Indigenous student enrolments by selected higher education course level categories 12,700 13,723
Proportion of higher education undergraduate students from a low socio-economic status background 17.6% 17.3%

Note: Student data and data relating to the ‘Improved quality in higher education’ key performance indicators is provided by calendar year (e.g. the 2013–14 data relates to the 2013 calendar year).

a Following consultation with universities, the department no longer measures socio-economic status using the interim composite measure. Socio-economic status is now measured using the Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas ( SEIFA) Index of Education and Occupation classification of students’ home addresses at the Statistical Area Level 1 geographical level.