The Australian Mathematical Sciences Institute (AMSI) is a national collaboration within the mathematical sciences across education, research and industry. As a national institute, with members across the nation, AMSI continues to be concerned with the decline of mathematical and statistical capability across Australia. This is reflected in:
These examples are indicative only.
AMSI supports the concept of institutions defining their mission and being measured and rewarded against their performance in that mission. AMSI notes that targets will be set in three key areas: participation and social inclusion, including the enrolment of more students of low socio-economic status; the quality of student experience; and the quality of learning outcomes. While these are worthy targets they are very broad and leave little room for addressing specific discipline areas that are important to Australia. There are two aspects of this:
The draft agreement for Mission-based compacts recognises that universities as autonomous institutions. Notwithstanding they are required to set out how their missions align with the Commonwealth’s goals for higher education, research, research training and innovation. AMSI believes they should be required to address the two aspects outlined above.
The proposed Reward Funding could be used as encouragement to increase the number of mathematical sciences graduates, communication skills more generally, and graduates with English majors. These would appear to be disciplines that all universities should aspire to teach.
A separate mechanism needs to address areas such as entomology. While critical to Australia this is not a discipline that every university should offer. What is missing at the moment is encouragement for any university to offer it.
AMSI notes that the stakeholder consultations largely ignored issues concerning specific disciplines. There were exceptions that highlight our concerns. For example the Deans of Engineering noted the indicators must be used in the broad national interest and not cause institutions to reduce particular discipline areas in which there are national skills shortages. AMSI would go further and suggest there should be incentives for universities to address national needs and skills shortages.
The Deans of Engineering and Nurse educators also argue that issues of gender imbalance need to be considered. Again AMSI would support rewarding institutions that successfully address this.
In summary, AMSI can support many aspects of the proposed Mission-based Compacts but believes that the current proposals miss a golden opportunity to have universities focus on, and be rewarded for, addressing some national discipline based shortfalls.
29 November 2010