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Unis investing more in promotion, marketing

University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings says Australian universities are spending more on promotion and market research as a result of the 2012 uncapping of student places and the prospect of further price-based deregulation.

And he points to collaborations with business as an area deserving greater spending in future.

Prof Wellings was speaking on Wednesday in London, where he became the first Australian vice-chancellor to deliver the Higher Education Policy Institute annual lecture.

In a talk that offered insight into some of the commercial realities that underpin university decision-making, Prof Wellings said the government’s intended 20 per cent cut in Commonwealth funding would result in greater competition.

“The government wishes to create more competition between institutions and fee differentiation is one way of doing this … There have also been changes in institutional behaviour,” he said.

“The prospect of price-based competition for student numbers has meant that the governing bodies of universities are already focusing on Australian competition laws and the risks associated with non-compliance.”

Prof Wellings noted that uncapping student places:

– had caused student numbers to fluctuate in different courses, and contributed to the casualisation of university workforces as universities sought to mitigate risk;

– would probably lead to a change in professions that had traditionally been difficult to enter, such as law and dentistry (“This could make these sectors more competitive in the medium term. It will also challenge graduate recruitment practices and force firms to consider graduates from less traditional backgrounds and with different life experiences.”);

– had caused “big increases” in the intake of students with ATARs under 70, and those of lower socio-economic status entering regional universities.

He also warned that Australia’s entire top 10 per cent research output was less than that of Harvard University alone, and said Australian universities could learn from their British equivalents about working with business.

Data suggested only 3.5 per cent of Australian businesses were involved in such collaborations, compared with 31 per cent in Britain, Prof Wellings said.

“It cannot be in Australia’s long-term economic and social interests to ignore the lack of engagement between businesses and universities,” he said.

“Reviews are currently under way with the aim of developing an innovation and competitiveness agenda and in boosting commercial returns from research.”

Prof Wellings said universities had boosted investment in marketing in response to the changes.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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