England and Australia are the two developed countries in the west that always challenge each other in terms of higher education. In the latest World University Rankings, three UK universities made it to the top ten with Oxford and Cambridge University securing the first and second spot respectively. On the other hand, only two Australian universities featured in the top fifty (Times Higher Education (THE), 2017). The concerned heads in both countries are continuously developing policies and plans to better the higher educational system.
Meaning of higher education
The system of higher education in England is a complex one. Institutions and organizations of higher education are autonomous and have partial or no interference of the government. These higher education institutions are recognized by the Royal Charter and are partly funded by the government (Gov.uk 2017).
In Australia, higher education is mostly known as tertiary education and its main providers are universities and other institutions like Registered Training Organizations (RTOs) and Technical and Further Education (TAFE). Government control over these institutions is limited. However, the government does make plans and policies to support higher education (Studyinaustralia.gov.au 2017).
The Department of Education of the Government of United Kingdom is responsible for announcing policies and providing funds for the higher education institutions in England. Every year, the government introduces schemes for better funding of the universities in order to achieve quality in all aspects including research, teaching and student experience (Gov.uk 2017).
Australia, on the other hand lays significant emphasis on the growth of higher education, as it is the third largest industry of export in the country. The Australian government every year announces the Higher Education Reform Package to ensure advanced quality of teaching, research and facilities in the higher education system (Devlin 2013).
Funding and Quality
In England, a number of councils and organizations are there that provide funds to carry out research and teaching in universities. Universities also receive funds from charities, government departments, businesses and the European Commission (Gov.uk 2017). By 2016, the universities received around 12 billion pounds as funding witnessing a rise from previous year’s total funding of 11.1 billion pounds (England 2017).
In contrast to this, universities in Australia are funded by the Australian Government to undertake research projects. The fund is received through a system of dual funding. The dual funding implies funding received through competitive research grants and research block grants. (Education.gov.au 2017).
Many surveys have revealed that UK universities lose a considerable amount of funds due to the non-repayment of loans by students. On the other hand, the strategic repayment scheme of Australian universities demands the students to repay loan in less than ten years. England lacks flexibility in loan provisions to students, both domestic and international (England 2017). Australian, in contrast to it, has laid significant interest in earning from international students and thus has flexible loan sanctions for students (O'Mahony and Garavan 2012).
England has a systematic method to ensure quality in higher education. Higher education institutions follow set standards and procedures to establish and maintain academic quality. Agencies like Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education conduct reviews and audits that bring out the status of education in universities based on a number of parameters (Gov.uk 2017). These reviews also make sure that the universities are at par with the rules and expectations prescribed in the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications (FHEQ) for England.
The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (TEQSA) is the leading body for assessing higher education quality in Australia. Formed in 2008, the primary role of TEQSA is to register all providers of higher education, certify courses, most importantly, guarantee quality against standards set externally, and cut risk by scrutinizing institutional performance on various parameters (Teqsa.gov.au 2017) (Siemens, Dawson and Lynch 2013).
Organizations and government departments in both countries continuously evaluate the standard of higher education and devise new strategies to counter issues and problems. Through agencies like QAA in England and TEQSA in Australia, practices and policies are constantly evaluated and modified to meet desired standard (O'Mahony and Garavan 2012).
It is evident from some of the policies and measures taken by higher education institutions in both countries that they follow similar paths. While in England, the government looked to hike tuition fees, the Australian government devised policies to cut university funding. However, England could do better in terms of providing financial help to students, particularly international students.
England also needs to take a cue from Australia’s TEQSA, which is the prime regulatory body that governs both public and private higher education providers.
In conclusion, it can be said that although Australia lags in the list of top universities as compared to England, the flexibility of its system makes it preferable. England on the other hand, must address issues in terms of funding to maintain its top position.
It can be recommended that England should adopt a more flexible approach towards providing loans to students. In addition, it could from a single agency or a governing body that regulates quality assurance of higher education in the country.
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