The last couple of decades or so have seen significant change in the higher education systems of both Australia and England. From systems that were essentially free to undergraduate students with no charges for fees and which also provided non-repayable grants to support living costs (for domestic students at least), both countries have seen escalating costs imposed on students and a general opening up of competition between universities. It is hard to overstate the extent to which higher education has changed during this period. From being regarded as a national investment in the country’s future, an individual’s higher education experience is now firmly positioned as being an individual’s investment in their own future. Any benefit to the country is seen as a consequence of that primary purpose rather than being the primary purpose itself.
A short history of these fundamental changes (and the way in which each country has borrowed from the other in a classic instance of policy transfer) is shown in a simple form in The Guardian, If you’re interested in higher education policy and where things might be headed, its worth spending a few minutes on it. It can be found here.