The Australian | 31 July 2013
University fees would be deregulated, red tape slashed and the federal government would assume more control of vocational training under a sweeping pre-election manifesto unveiled by the Business Council of Australia.
The Economic Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity says market arrangements should be further embedded in universities to foster “world-class and more differentiated” specialist university courses.
The document says course fees should be uncapped, like university places.
Further deregulating the fees paid by university students (would) enable institutions to move away from the incentive to get high numbers of students through price-capped courses.
Universities would also be free to focus on their core business if the red-tape burden was reduced, the BCA says.
The document says a “more consistent funding and regulatory framework” would also improve the interfaces between schools and tertiary education providers.
However the National Tertiary Education Union has pointed Australian fees are already among the highest in the world, and any diversification from higher fees would be superficial.
RMIT University policy analyst Gavin Moodie said higher fees would undermine the HECS scheme because more loans would not be repaid, and would do little to increase course quality because much of the extra revenue would be spent on research.
There is a substantial body of evidence that markets in higher education generate not diversity but homogenisation and stratification by status, which is based on age and research performance.
In the VET sector, the BCA says the “commonwealth strategic oversight” should be comparable to its oversight of higher education, and that government subsidies for vocational students should be comparable to those available at university.