The architecture and the plumbing: what features do the higher education systems in the UK and Australia have in common?
The recent period can only be seen as one of rapid and substantial churn as UK governments have attempted to widen participation, strengthen the national system of innovation and control the direct public costs of higher education. Very similar issues have dominated the debate in Australia. This paper compares the current position of two higher education systems which have done similar things but in a different order, and in different social, political and economic settings. The paper, in a longer version that is available on the HEPI website, was first presented in HEPI's annual lecture series. The version published by HEPI contains all the tables and figures used in the lecture. In 2003, in the first of the HEPI lectures, Lord Dearing addressed four themes: finance; competition and growth; diversity of provision and the role of Higher Education in society. Despite all the changes in the past decade, all these issues remain at the core of the debate on the design of effective higher education systems. With reference to these themes, the paper considers: the organisation of the two university systems; entry standards and social equity; the effect of deregulating student numbers; research patterns; and the relationship between business and universities. The technical analysis of student support mechanisms and loans structure is not investigated because detailed coverage has already been given in a number of studies commissioned by HEPI during 2014.