The Australian | 24 July 2013
Major policy reform of the demand-driven system cannot be rushed in just 72 hours and needs further consultation to avoid unintended consequences, according to Sandra Harding, chair of Universities Australia.
At a recent meeting with vice-chancellors, higher education Minister Kim Carr asked them for advice on possible budget-neutral alternatives to the $900 million university funding cuts announced in the May budget, possibly by reining in growth in student places.
While UA hasn’t developed an alternative proposal, Harding said it had advised the minister of potential issues arising from any changes to the uncapped system. She said new places would still have to be available where needed and that funding for the predicted “bulge” in the student pipeline from the recent expansion would have to be guaranteed, as would the need to be able to enrol sufficient students to support new infrastructure.
The important thing is to ensure that where demand exists that demand is met and where growth is needed that growth can occur.
As to whether introducing a blanket minimum ATAR entry across the sector is on the agenda, Harding said she believed Carr is considering a more sophisticated approach.
She said there are two key “threshold” issues: the proposed cap on self-education expenses for tax deductions should be abandoned and universities should be insulated from further cuts to compensate for that.
Second, any alternative savings identified in the higher education budget should be directed at reducing the proposed “efficiency dividend”.