Former Pro Vice Chancellor Warns Against Australia's Universities Becoming 'Education Factories'

Former Pro Vice Chancellor Warns Against Australia's Universities Becoming 'Education Factories'
People walk past signage for Australian universities in Melbourne's central business district in Melbourne, Australia, on June 10, 2020. (William West/AFP via Getty Images)

A former pro vice chancellor at Murdoch University has warned about the risk of turning Australia’s universities into “education factories” that graduate people with poor skills and critical capability who could be easily influenced by the pervasive “woke culture.”

Gabriel Moens, who is also an emeritus professor of law at University of Queensland, pointed out that the current education policy, which focuses on expanding universities and TAFE by increasing funding, has “taken the process of democratisation too far.”

The concern was raised after Labor on April 18 proposed a $1.2 billion investment in education which will create 20,000 additional places at universities and provide free TAFE (Technical and Further Education) courses.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said his Fee Free TAFE plan aims to tackle critical skill shortages in areas such as childcare, aged care, trades and construction, digital and cyber security, resources, and advanced manufacturing.

“Labor will end privatisation by stealth, ensuring at least 70 percent of Commonwealth vocational education funding is for public TAFE,” he said.

“Fee Free TAFE will provide opportunities for school leavers, workers wanting to retrain or upskill, and unpaid carers—who are predominantly women—to get back into the workforce.”

Albanese also accused the incumbent Coalition government of cutting TAFE and university funding, saying it has led to a drop in the proportion of applicants receiving an offer of a place at university.

The Coalition denied the allegation, saying it has spent $13 billion throughout the pandemic and delivered 220,000 trade apprenticeships, the highest on record.

With the federal election looming, educating Australians is set to be a key issue as the sector recovers from extended COVID-19 lockdowns, significant revenue loss and skills shortages.

However, Moens noted that the democratisation of the education sector has seen universities graduating people “with limited and underdeveloped skills—some are even hardly able to read properly.”

“Universities should only admit people or students who are able to benefit from and contribute to the function of the university,” he told The Epoch Times.

The law professor also raised concerns about “the woke culture now pervading universities” because it has the potential to “indoctrinate people who do not have the ability or willingness to think clearly and analytically.”

He further noted that TAFE could also adopt the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), a government loan scheme for eligible students studying at public universities.

“Traditionally, [the] Liberals have tended to spend less on universities. However, they may well seek to offer the same as Labor on this occasion,” Moens said.

“At present, universities have become education factories, not concerned with education but money and quantity, not quality.”

Meanwhile, Salvatore Babones, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, said instead of increasing funding to the country’s 38 public universities to increase university places, the government should streamline the way tertiary institutions are run.

“Whether or not the number of university places should be expanded is debatable, but if the number of places is to be increased, it is important to do so in a cost-effective manner,” Babones said in a release in March.

“If Australian universities stopped offering double undergraduate degrees, a significant number of new university places could be created.”

“Instead of educating more students, universities use the limited pool of government funding to provide more degrees—to the same students.”

Nina Nguyen is a reporter based in Sydney. She covers Australian news with a focus on social, cultural, and identity issues. She is fluent in Vietnamese. Contact her at [email protected].