Opposition News | 28 February 2013
…I want to be clear about the principles and policy directions that the Coalition intends to follow should we form a government later this year.
First and most important, we will be a stable and consultative government. If we put in place a policy or a programme, we will see it through. If we have to change it, we will consult beforehand rather than impose it unilaterally and argue about it afterwards. We understand the value of stability and certainty, even to universities.
Second, we will encourage Australian universities to protect their academic standing so that students can be confident that their degrees are taken seriously.
Third, we will work with universities to expand their share of the international higher education market.
Fourth, we will establish a new, two-way street version of the Colombo Plan building on the original one that brought tens of thousands of students from around our region to study in Australia.
To this end, the Menzies Research Centre – at the request of my deputy leader and shadow minister for foreign affairs, Julie Bishop, will soon host a policy development roundtable to help shape what I hope might become a type of Rhodes Scholarship for our region.
Fifth, we will encourage universities and institutes to ensure that their research work is world class, effectively delivered and well-targeted. There are credible claims that researchers typically spend 30 per cent of their time making grant applications that normally have a 20 per cent success rate. One way to help here might be to offer longer-term research grants.
Sixth, we will help to foster the creative and economic potential in our education and research sector by reducing their regulatory and compliance burden. By the time they have answered to Commonwealth and state officialdom it seems that no institutions are as heavily invigilated.
Well-intentioned outsiders shouldn’t be trying to micromanage universities or bury them in reporting requirements. For instance, universities already have to report to the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency that this government set up in 2010. They should not be subject to the additional oversight of the new Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission that the government established last year.
This is an unnecessary and intrusive new bureaucracy, an entity that was supposed to reduce red tape but which has already increased it, and it will be abolished in its current form should the Coalition win the election.
This should be a small but significant step towards achieving the $1 billion a year reduction in regulatory and compliance costs across the economy that the Coalition has promised to deliver.
Seventh, and finally, the Coalition wants Australian universities to be able to take advantage of the growth in online learning, such as the development of Massive Open Online Courses. These have obvious potential to make higher education more widely available but, equally obviously, also pose a challenge to established methods and institutions.