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Slipping Australian education under threat from reduced ICT spending

Australian higher education is going through a nightmare downward spiral, with declining standards, decreased revenues and a corresponding decrease in ICT spending. What’s more the already dismal scenario is forecast to get even worse in the immediate future, according to a new report.

Overall Australian education standards, revenue from Higher Education institutions and ICT-enabled spending for education have been slipping, particularly in comparison to other developed global economies and a number of key East Asian countries including China, Korea and Singapore, according to research group IDC.

IDC Government Insights' research found that 35% of all Australian education institutions are operating with reduced ICT budgets in 2013, compared to 2012. This is expected to continue into 2014.

According to the research, there is a great deal of focus on educational outcomes for political reasons. However, very little is publicly focused on the role that ICT has to play for critical sector-wide transformations. IDC Government Insights' surveys found that education initiations are planning to implement higher bandwidth broadband, social networking technologies, mobility, and videoconferencing that can come together to create cutting-edge educational experiences. However such initiatives have not been clearly mapped out yet.

The education sector, Australia's 4th largest export, needs serious transformation attention, according to IDC. The number of international students coming to Australia has sharply dropped since the peak in 2009 due to the high value of the Australian dollar, the increased cost of living in Australia, stronger competition from other countries, and disruptive sector forces from Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) for higher education. Notably, the international students Education Sector is Australia’s fourth largest export, following iron ore, coal, and gold. In 2012-13, education services for international students generated almost A$15 billion in export revenues.

Gerald Wang, Research Manager, IDC Government Insights Asia/Pacific, explains that a climate of very high expectations relating to immediate return-on-investments, coupled with tight budgetary environments means that Australia's Education Sector is heavily stressed to deliver improved education services while being expected to do more with less.

“However, chasing productivity for productivity sake is pointless without clear long-term strategic outcomes that deliver tangible socio-economic values. Smart Education Initiatives may provide not only alternative pockets of funding but also help justify a more aligned approach towards matching the business of education and critical ICT investments for continued sector relevance," Wang warns.

Emilie Ditton, Head, A/P Vertical Markets, IDC Australia, adds that education spending and investment, while always highly politicized, is receiving a great deal of focus in Australia in 2014 as a consequence of the downward trajectory of outcomes, particularly in the K-12 segment.

“However, the conversation in Australia still has not extended to how technology in education can be part of an integrated strategy for improving those outcomes as well as driving administrative efficiencies. Declining budgets are not an excuse for not working to integrate technology solutions within traditional education strategies," says Ditton.


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Stan Beer


Stan Beer co-founded iTWire in 2005. With 30 plus years of experience working in IT and Australian technology media, Beer has published articles in most of the IT publications that have mattered, including the AFR, The Australian, SMH, The Age, as well as a multitude of trade publications.