I posted on the Melbourne Model being pursued by the University of Melbourne last year. The idea is to have undergraduate generalist degrees followed by full fee postgraduate degrees along the lines of the US liberal arts model. Vice Chancellor Glyn Davis already seems to be getting nervous about the implications of the plan for enrolments there next year. The fraction of full-fee paying students will increase from 25% to 33% and, even apart from this, the costs of gaining a degree will increase because of the longer times taken to gain qualifications. If one believes in the 'law of demand' the moves by Melbourne will reduce numbers seeking to utilise its programs.
Essentially options for existing students are restricted – they can already do ‘double degree combos’ if they wish – and, even apart from this, programs will become more expensive in time and aggregate tuition charges. Other universities around Australia eagerly look towards able students heading in their direction rather than to Melbourne. Of course I hope that happens.
Melbourne will offer a handful of top school achievers reasonably lucrative scholarships. Sixty students who achieve an ENTER score of 99.9 will get their undergraduate degree course HECS-free along with cash incentives of $5000 a year, or $10,000 for interstate students. Students who achieve an ENTER of 98 or higher will receive a one-off $2500 payment to help offset costs.
One wonders if these sorts of measures will have much effect. My guess is that most of these top ENTER students, at least in Victoria, would already have intended to enroll at Melbourne.
Perhaps it will prevent them from shifting elsewhere. If not the only effect of the scholarships will be to redistribute resources to, in the main, the well-off private-school-trained students who get the bulk of the top ENTER scores. It would then have almost no efficiency effects and would be distributionally regressive.
Professor Davis says “We're trying to establish a culture that says (we would like) the very best students to aspire to come to Melbourne and we've got to make it possible for them to get here.”
That’s fine if additional good students are brought to Melbourne and if education objectives are seen to be a zero sum game where one university sets out to take all. Its not my view of how things should operate.