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UA guarded on proposed reforms

6 May 2014

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ua logoThe Commission of Audit’s  recommendations in relation to higher education have received a guarded response from Universities Australia (UA), given a lack of detail and/or reasoning behind them.  UA says that, without a full picture of the proposed  reforms, it is not possible to understand all the implications of the  reform trajectory.

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Universities Australia (UA) agrees with the Government that higher education and research drives economic and social prosperity.

Public funding of higher education and research is an investment in Australia’s future.

In the context of the reforms under consideration by Government, UA agreed:

Sustainable Investment and fee deregulation

It is critical that universities are funded appropriately and sustainably.

In recognising the substantial contribution that Australian students make to investing in their higher education, the Australian government per-student investment in universities should not decrease in real terms and the indexation formula should be at least maintained at existing levels to realise these investment benefits, in the national interest.
In recognising the critical importance of research in underpinning national economic and social well-being and the reductions by government over time, investment in research should at least be maintained.

Research infrastructure is an essential enabler of research and will require additional investment which should not be funded from per-student funding for teaching and learning.

UA notes the debate around fee deregulation. UA acknowledges the case for price differences taking account of differing cost bases, and course and programme offerings.

Should the Government decide to pursue deregulation of fees, and in the absence of detailed information on the design of a deregulated fee regime, UA agreed that this required further consideration and analysis, recognising that Australia has one of the highest rates of private contribution to the cost of tertiary education in the OECD.

Expansion of the demand driven system

UA supports the Government’s decision to retain the demand driven system and extend it to sub-bachelor places.
UA is not opposed to greater competition.

Extension of the demand driven system to non-university higher education providers should be predicated on ensuring the safeguarding of the integrity and reputation of Australia’s quality higher education system; achieving competitive fairness and transparency; and the maintenance of per student funding to universities.

The relative funding of universities compared with non-university higher education providers (NUHEPs) should take account of the obligation of universities to invest in research, public good and community engagement activities.

Student Financing

UA notes the Government’s intention to tighten up the Higher Education Contribution Scheme and FEE-HELP study assistance and agrees that continuing levels of unpaid debt and doubtful debt can negatively affect the sustainability of the higher education system.

Any changes must not undermine the integrity of the internationally-acclaimed HELP scheme or act as a barrier to accessing higher education.

Consultation

Without a full picture of the government’s reforms it is not possible to understand all the implications of the Government’s reform trajectory. UA welcomes the opportunity to work with the Government on a plan to deliver a world class higher education system for the future economic and social prosperity of Australia.

See
Commission of Audit on higher education arrangements

 

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