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Sector submissions to the Senate Inquiry – part 3

 

Griffith: outer urban unis face similar challenges to regionals

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Griffith University supports the submissions made by Universities Australia and Innovative Research Universities and offers the following additional comments.

The policy framework for the proposed new arrangements contained in the Regulation Impact Statement argues the case for correcting “market failure”. Economic considerations are central to a coherent public policy framework, but an effective and efficient higher education system is more than a function of market forces.

A balanced regulatory framework should promote business efficiencies in the internal management of institutions and in the relationship between regulators and providers. This should not be overlooked in the current debate about fee deregulation and related matters.

Special provision for designated regional institutions could overlook the situation of outer- metropolitan universities, often with multiple campuses, that face similar difficulties.

Griffith, for example, has among the highest numbers nationally of disadvantaged students in its five campuses spread over some 80 kilometres in southeast Queensland. This is a region containing areas of high growth, inadequate infrastructure provision and social disadvantage that are at least as severe as some designated regional areas.  The current narrow definition of “regional” is not the only synonym for relative disadvantage nor a simple function of distance from a State capital CBD.

If there are to be any special funding arrangements for regional institutions in a deregulated system, Griffith strongly urges appropriate consideration for outer-metropolitan universities.

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Field: extension of funding needs to be more equitable and market sensitive

The reforms proposed in the Bill are significant and will make a profound difference to the higher education sector. In their current form they will bring greater equity to Claire Field & Associatesnon-university higher education students. With minor modifications the reforms will provide greater student benefit, strengthen the higher education system by encouraging institutions to deliver a wider range of specialist, high quality programs, and ensure a maximum return on public investment in the sector.

The recommended funding rate in the Bill of 70% for students at NUHEPs is too low.  It is notable that the detailed analysis of teaching and learning costs undertaken in the year long Lomax Smith Base Funding Review3  recommended private providers should receive 90%.

until the new market arrangements are settled, there are likely to be insufficient mechanisms in the reforms to guard against excessive fee increases.

The design of the  scholarship scheme will require many private providers to increase their fees in the first year of the reforms merely to avoid making a loss.

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NUS: bill so flawed it should be rejected entirely

NUS logoThe National Union of Students (NUS) is not opposed to every measure in the Bill but is steadfastly  opposed to its core proposals of tuition fee deregulation, the application of bond market rates of interest to HELP debts and postgraduate research training fees.

Due to study debt aversion these measures will undermine access for many potential low SES, rural and mature age students.  Graduates will be facing repayments of over $100,000, which some will be repaying over a lifetime. There are also many broader social and economic consequences of these debts that have barely been raised in the public debate so far such as its impact on first home ownership, savings, entrepreneurialism and also the low rates of private return for Australian graduates compared to other OECD countries.

The Bradley Review of Higher Education recommended that the base funding for teaching should be increased by 10% and the Base Funding Review’s findings about widespread underfunding of many disciplines. Fee deregulation, while seen by many as providing a quick funding fix, will not serve the long-term interests of Australia.  Instead we need a funding system that is premised on affordable life-long earning that will be even more necessary for the high skill labour markets of Australia’s future.

NUS urges senators to vote down this bill in its entirety.

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CAPA: reforms would profound damage research capability

The Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill if passed would hold damaging implications for the postgraduate and higher degree by research community, CAPAand in turn, Australia’s research workforce and future academic community. It would also have profound ramifications for students from low-SES, remote and regional, first- in-family, diverse equity, Aboriginal, and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. We provide you with this feedback having been entrusted with it by the thousands of members of the postgraduate and research community who have engaged with our response to the Budget 2014-15 so far, and we hope that you will carry it forward and make a recommendation that reflects the grave concerns of the postgraduate and research student community.

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UoW: prospect of reforms already having equity impacts

Uni WollThe evolution of the demand driven system has created opportunity for most sections of the Australian population and it is  important  that  any  future  changes  do  not  negatively impact on the choice of opportunity our school leavers see before them.  Getting  these policy levers right is no easy task and UOW’s internal analysis is already indicating the impact of uncertainty on the decisions of potential students for 2015. As  of  mid-September, the NSW Tertiary Admission Centre (UAC) data is showing a fall in school Leaver participation for  2015  from  the  non-metropolitan areas,  demand  from  the  Hunter is down 8%, Wollongong 14%,  North Coast 14%, Central West 23%, Murray 16%, South Coast 12%, compared to the same time last year.  Potential students from more  affluent areas are currently appearing less impacted by the uncertainty as demand from Northern Sydney, Central Sydney and Western  Sydney out  to  Parramatta is stable.  As such, the University of Wollongong asks the Committee to seriously  consider  the following:

  •  The appropriateness of the mix of funding between Commonwealth Grants  and individuals. Allowing changes in this mix for the more price-sensitive would ensure Low socioeconomic background students are provided the opportunities to become the well-qualified graduates on whom our future economy depends.
  • With the deregulation of student fees there has been some suggestion of adding a new fee cap to ensure students are not burdened by ballooning This measure would be contrary to the objective of fee competition and indeed risks adding a price guide to the market. It is an unnecessary step, as institutions who charge excessive fees will simply be unable to compete in an open tertiary education environment.
  • The scale of  the  proposed  cut  to  the  Government’s contribution  is likely to  severely  impede  the  financial   circumstances   of  some universities,  which  would  in turn  flow  on to  the  quality  of  education  provided  to    It is highly unlikely that the scale of genuine efficiencies required to meet this  funding  cut  can be found  within  the  timeframe  required.
  • Under the proposed repayment methods students will undoubtedly be responsible for a greater portion of the costs of higher The impact of this will be very different between genders and locations and in fact may drive graduates away from employment in socially valuable occupations or regional areas, which is incongruent with other objectives of the Government. By considering a more modest interest rate or revisiting some of the debt forgiveness proposals, the impact of these changes will be more equitable across our society.

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Evocca: students need “skin in the game”Evocca

Evocca welcomes reforms that make education and training more accessible and by extension, further welcomes reforms that will contribute to the ongoing financial sustainability of the Government’s contribution to higher education.

Evocca supports the intention of the Bill  for higher education students to make an increased contribution to the cost of their studies. It has been Evocca’s experience that students with ‘skin in the game’ are more committed from the outset and are more likely to finish their studies and/or find employment. Lowering the current repayment threshold for Income Contingent Loans (ICL) from $53,345 to $50,638 will go some way towards the government seeing a return on its loan sooner (and will enable slightly more student ‘skin in the game’). However, Evocca supports this threshold being lowered even further, as was suggested in the Commission of Audit, so that ICLs can continue to be offered for future students over the long term.

Similarly, in an effort to make the system more sustainable over the longer term, Evocca supports the Government’s intention to raise the ICL repayment rate in line with the Treasury 10-year bond rate, to a maximum of 6%. Indeed, while we are not advocating for the New Zealand model, it is interesting to note, by way of comparison, that in New  Zealand, students pay back their ICL at a flat rate of 12% once their income exceeds $19,084 (2012/13), in a bid to make the New Zealand ICL model sustainable.

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VU: distinctive characteristics need to be recognised and supported

VU3Victoria University supports the submission of Universities Australia to the Senate Inquiry, but goes on to make points from the perspective of a “university that  has  some very important and distinctive characteristics”.  Victoria University is  a  university with a high incidence of students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and is based in the fastest growing region of Australia, the West of Melbourne. It is also a relatively new university, established in 1991, and a dual-sector university providing vocational education and training as well as higher education. The combination of these factors present particular challenges for the University, in the context of an increasingly deregulated tertiary education environment.

Amendments that need serious consideration include the following:

  1.  putting a cap on income contingent loans (or CPI-indexed loans up to a certain level, and a real interest rate above that);
  2. having a more gradual transition process to the new system;
  3. having an independent body to oversight the market to monitor and review the effect of the market design;
  4. having a structural adjustment fund to support adjustment of institutions to the new environment;
  5. increasing funding for the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program;
  6. developing value-added measures of the contribution of universities to students and their communities.

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