The Australian | 21 January 2014
The Group of Eight says universities should be given the freedom to opt out of the government funding system and instead charge undergraduate full fees in selected courses.
Any universities opting out would have to forgo any government funding for the course. The move would open the way initially for the effective privatisation of prestigious courses that offer graduates highly paid careers such as law, and which could support higher fees in the face of competition from lower-cost government supported courses.
Such a policy was first recommended by the 2008 Bradley review but was never endorsed by the Rudd and Gillard governments.
In its submission to the review of the demand-driven system, the group has suggested that initially such a policy could be limited to law, accounting, economics and commerce, where the government subsidy is just 16% of the total funding, compared with an average 60% across all courses.
Based on an estimate that full fees would increase by about half the difference between international fees and the total current funding universities receive for a domestic student in such courses, the Go8 suggested that at the top end of the market student fees could increase by 56% from $9792 a year to $15,250.
The Go8 also wants the government to increase the supply of sub-degree places that would also be funded at a lower rate than bachelor degrees and be opened up to private and non-university providers. It argues such a move would lower government costs, promote diversity and provide alternative paths to universities.