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Go8: Structural reform of higher education long overdue

Group of Eight     |     13 May 2014

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“These historic reforms reconcile access and quality, and make growth affordable.”

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The Group of Eight (Go8) commends the Government for progressing structural reform of higher education in its first budget.

“The Government has announced a number of important measures to position the Australian higher education sector for the future,” said Go8 Chair, Professor Ian Young AO. “These historic reforms reconcile access and quality, and make growth affordable.”

The Government has announced its intention to extend the demand-driven system to non-university providers and sub-Bachelor places. To complement deregulation of places, the Government will now, logically, deregulate fees.

“A more dynamic higher education sector will continue to expand opportunity in a sustainable way,” Professor Young said. “It will be more responsive to students’ needs, offering greater diversity and new opportunities.”

Australia’s pioneering income-contingent student loan system will continue to ensure that no capable student is priced out of higher education. The progressive repayment system means that those who benefit most pay most.

Professor Young congratulated the Government on retaining the key features of the HELP scheme: “It is vital that the HELP scheme continues to support access to opportunity. While the cost and efficiency of the scheme can be improved, changes must not be at the expense of the principle that students pay for their education on the basis of their relatively high salaries as graduates.”

“We welcome the recognition that student living costs present challenges for those from less affluent backgrounds,” Professor Young said. “It is reasonable for the community to expect that universities dedicate a proportion of increased revenue from fees to fund stipends for needy students.”

The Go8 welcomes the opportunity to consult over the design of key policy elements.

The Go8 welcomes the restoration of funding for research infrastructure and mid- career researchers. “We especially welcome the Medical Research Future Fund which will grow to $20 Billion and provide an additional source of funding for health and medical research.”

“In a challenging Budget, the Government should be congratulated for recognising that research is an investment in Australia’s future,” Professor Young said. “Investing in infrastructure and research fellowships is crucial to underpinning Australia’s ability to participate at the cutting edge of global knowledge advances.”

“The Budget package is an integrated set of progressive measures which will enhance Australian higher education and research,” Professor Young concluded. “I encourage the Senate to accept the imperative for these reforms.”

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