ABC News | 25 September 2013
Education Minister Christopher Pyne is planning an overhaul of the higher education system, including the reintroduction of caps on university places and the removal of compulsory student service fees.
Mr Pyne has confirmed he is considering reintroducing caps on university places due to concerns that the current demand-driven system is undermining quality, despite assurances in July that the Coalition had no such plans.
Labor abolished the cap on places in 2007 to give more people access to higher education and to get more people from disadvantaged backgrounds into university.
In an interview with the ABC’s 7.30 in July, Mr Pyne said the Coalition had “no plans to restore the cap“.
“We do believe that the more students who are doing university the better,” he added.
In a media release in August 2012, in response to policy speculation, Mr Pyne said the Coalition strongly supported the uncapping of university places.
“Reports that this (capping places) is being considered are wrong. In fact the Coalition strongly supported the uncapping of university places and many other elements of the Bradley Review,” Mr Pyne said.
Released in 2008, the Badley Review into higher education gave recommendations for reform in the sector, including more deregulation and for funding to follow students across institutions.
Mr Pyne said on ABC radio today that his focus is on ensuring quality in the university sector and he is concerned some courses do not lead to a job.
“There is certainly a lot of evidence that the number of students being enrolled has grown exponentially and whether they have grown in the courses that have a career path is one of the things that we need to carefully consider,” he said.
We have no plans to restore the cap. We do believe that the more students who are doing university, the better. But we do need to address concerns in the industry that there is a diminution of quality.
Christopher Pyne July 2012
“It would be wrong of the universities and the Commonwealth Government to simply be training people for careers that don’t exist.”
Mr Pyne also confirmed that he plans to once again scrap compulsory fees collected by universities to pay for student services and amenities on campus.
Compulsory student union fees were scrapped under the Howard government in 2005 but brought back in a different form under Labor.
The Gillard government passed legislation to allow universities to charge student service fees of up to $250, which began at the start of 2012.