Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

General Conference, Programme for the Institutional Management of Higher Education, OECD, Paris.


As Dirk van Damme suggested (van Damme, 2009), the effects of the global financial crisis (GFC) have been manifold and complex and affected countries differently. Australia and Ireland have fared very differently in the GFC so choices will inevitably have been influenced by their relative capacity to spend on higher education. Since 1988 Australia has had a unitary, government-regulated but independent higher education system with block funding from a combination of government allocations and student contributions. In contrast, Ireland retains a government-regulated binary system dependent upon public investment and direct government control of staffing budgets. In recent years, both countries have reviewed their higher education system (Australia 2008, Ireland 2009-2010). The Australian review forms the basis of the government’s intention to further deregulate the system by removing enrolment caps, while Ireland’s higher education is caught up in a drive for efficiency and rationalisation. While the GFC increased awareness of the need to invest in the knowledge economy, governments are adopting different approaches in line with their different fundamentals. It can be argued that Ireland was left with little leeway whereas Australia’s far better economic position might have provided an opportunity to invest in higher education through its stimulus packages. This paper examines the policy choices that Australian and Irish governments made both before and in response to the GFC to assess how these decisions have prepared higher education for the future. We examine the situation in three main sections: section 1) sets out some of the main issues and a basis for comparison; section 2) describes the higher education and policy environment in each country; and section 3) compares and contrasts the policy choices, implications and possible impacts.