31 October 2014 | As part of its growing campaign against the Abbott government’s deregulation of university fees, Labor has launched its own “calculator of doom” which shows that in a “best case” scenario in which universities simply raise fees to cover proposed funding cuts, female nurses and teachers could face cost increases of about 60% once interest repayments are included. Under the best case scenario, a female nurse would end up repaying $32,245 for her three-year degree over nine years, up 66% from $19,410 under current arrangements. If prices rose to international student levels she would eventually repay $56,643 over almost 15 years. A male business student under the best case scenario would see their total repayments rise just 27% for a three-year degree to $43,656 that would take 8 years to repay. But if fees rose to international market levels, his repayments would rise to $94,473 and take almost 13 years to repay. But unless and until a deal is done on the package – and universities have set their fee regimes – we just don’t know what loan debt future generations of students will be carrying….[ MORE ]….
29 October 2014 | The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee has tabled its report on the government’s Higher Education and Research Amendment Bill after two months of hearings and 164 submissions from interested parties. It’s utterly predictable: the committee has split 3 ways, with a majority report by the 3 Coalition members, recommending passage of the bill, perhaps with amendments and dissenting reports by the single Labor member and the single Greens member, both recommending rejection of the bill. Predictable as it is, the report is also disappointing: the recommendations contribute nothing at all the resolution of a fundamental issue: placing the financing of Australian higher education – and, from The Scan’s perspective, Australian universities – on a sustainable footing….[ MORE ]….
28 October 2014 | On the back of a settlement with Victorian education authorities over VET non-compliance issues, which saw ASX-listed training provider Vocation Ltd surrender $19.6 million in government funding, Vocation’s share price has taken a hammering. From $2.29 when trade in the shares was suspended on 24 October, the opened at $1.40 today on resump[tion of trading, reached a high of $1.52 to close at 99.5 cents on a volume of about 28.4 million shares traded – far cry from its peak at $3.40. Vocation will also undertake a series of measures to ensure continuous improvement in its operations and compliance with regulatory standards. It has appointed a Quality Advisory Committee, headed by former ACPET chief Claire Field, to have full oversight of future continuous improvement activities within its Victorian businesses. Vocation has also announced that it intends to restructure its Victorian business, which will see the closure of two of its RTOs….[ MORE ]….
27 October 2014 | The ASX-listed training provider Vocation has announced a settlement with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in relation to its review into two of Vocation’s Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), BAWM and Aspin. Vocation will surrender a $19.6 million in government funding, effectively close the 2 RTOs, and restructure its Victorian operations under the direction of a new CEO…..[ MORE ]….
27 October 2014 | The Senate committee report on the government’s higher education reform package is due by 28 October, with debate set for later in the week. Education minister r Christopher Pyne has made clear that fee deregulation is the key reform he and Tony Abbott want to achieve, even if it means $5 billion in planned savings fall short. It’s being reported that, in addition to dropping the proposal to charge a “real interest rate”, the government is seeking to cut a deal around delaying the extension of public funding to “for profit” higher education providers by three years and perhaps also delaying the extension to universities of uncapped funding of sub-degree places. This would save around $800 million over four years and give room to moderate the proposed 20% cut in university funding and fund a modest “transitional fund” for universities in” thin markets”. However, Pyne has denied he is dumping key parts of his higher education reforms, suggesting there must be a “lone wolf” in the sector. He told Channel Nine’s Today Show the article was “completely false” and “news” to him…..[ MORE ]….
27 October 2014 | Trading in shares of the ASX-listed training provider Vocation has been suspended pending the announcement of the outcomes of a review by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development of compliance by Vocation subsidiaries with contractual obligations for funding under the Victorian Training Guarantee. The announcement is scheduled for Monday 27 October 2014. If the review discloses major non-compliance issues, which might reasonably be expected given the amount of time this matter has been running (since the middle of the year), we might also reasonably expect some major changes at Vocation, including a shakeup of its management. The company has already set up a Quality Advisory Committee (QAC), headed by former ACPET chief Claire Field, to oversight the company’s compliance with regulatory standards. Vocation disclosed in late August that the Victorian Department of Education was reviewing two of its training organisations, Bawm and Aspin….[ MORE ]….
26 October 2014 | Victorian Labor has kicked off its campaign for the state election on29 November with the promise of a $1.2 billion dollar package to upgrade schools and the TAFE Government school upgrades and refurbishments would cost $510 million, $120 million would be provided for Catholic and independent schools and $50 million would be spent on upgrading kindergartens across the state. Labor would also provide millions of dollars to help struggling families with uniforms and shoes. Labor also proposes a network of technical schools around the state , with 10 centres to be set up with a $125 million fund. The “first act” of an incoming Labor government would be to set up a $320 million “TAFE rescue fund” to reopen closed campuses, bailout struggling centres at risk of financial failure. There will also be a review of VET…..[ MORE ]….
23 October 2014 | Ministers at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council on 26 September 2014 agreed to new regulatory Standards for training providers and regulators. Industry minister Ian Macfarlane signed off on the new standards on 20 October. The government says the new Standards represent an important step towards an effective risk-based regulatory system and introduce important changes that strengthen industry engagement, improve the quality of training and reduce the regulatory burden on training providers. The new Standards also increase protections for students who want to undertake nationally recognised training and strengthen the requirements for the delivery of training and assessment qualifications – qualifications which underpin the overall quality of training delivered in the VET system…..[ MORE ]….
27 October 2014 | Murdoch University vice-chancellor Richard Higgott, under investigation by WA’s anti-corruption watchdog, has resigned from the position. Professor Richard Higgott was last month suspended on full pay after he was reported to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) by the university.It did not detail the nature of Professor Higgott’s alleged misdemeanours. The CCC said at the time it had been monitoring a university investigation into the academic’s conduct and had received a provisional report from Murdoch detailing new allegations. Murdoch Chancellor David Flanagan said the Senate had accepted Higgott’s resignation. He said Andrew Taggart had been appointed Acting Vice Chancellor in the wake of Professor Higgott’s resignation, effective immediately…….[ MORE ]….
31 October 2014
In October The Scan published 47 posts, considerably lees than usual, and only published 2 editions, rather than the 4-5 in a usual month. Early in October, we suffered what seemed to be a catastrophic ICT event , which turned out merely to be a bit of a disaster but limited activity (nothing to do with viruses and worms!). As note last month Scan readers seem to be drawn to a whiff of controversyand the runaway controversy in October were the regulatory travails of the ASX-listed training provider Vocation (and which seem to have some way to run yet). University fee deregulation featured highly, with advocates and opponents lobbying hard through the month, ahead of a Senate committee report on the legislation and anticipated debate in the Senate (yet to happen). The arithmetic of the Senate seemingly dooms the package, with Labor, Greens and PUP opposed – but who knows. The Palmer team has shown a certain flexibilty, quite conducive to backflipping. A surpise top post concerned James Baraz’s mother, which was originally posted in November 2012 and in October enjoyed more views than in the preceding 2 years.
It’s hardly news that all the university groups are as one that there is no alternative to fee deregulation to provide the funding to maintain the quality of Australian higher education (given declining public funding). They are not as one on how the proposed Commonwealth Scholarship scheme funding (provided by students) should be divvied up: the Group of 8 and ATN argue the money should be held and disbursed by the collecting institution, the RUN and IRU argue that it should be pooled and disbursed on a needs basis.
31 October 2014
The Senate inquiry into the government’s proposed suite of changes to higher education has now reported. The committee came up with five recommendations, some of which were foreshadowed by Education Minister Christopher Pyne and by media reports but which Pyne has since discounted. Gwilym Croucher summarises the report and the issues that confront the crossbenchers who will decide the outcome.
What does the report say?
The committee, chaired by Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie, recommends that the bill be passed, but in doing so also suggests some adjustments to the bill. It first recommends that in developing the guidelines for the Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, the government should address:
… financial barriers faced by students from low SES [socioeconomic status] backgrounds and regional communities.
The report calls for preferential access for students living away from home and those having faced low-socioeconomic disadvantage.
The report goes on to recommend that the government develop a structural adjustment package to provide funds for providers to transition to a “fully deregulated system”. As has been widely speculated, the report suggests this tailored assistance should cater to regional and rural students and students facing disadvantage.
A key recommendation in the report is the re-examination of the HELP indexation rate, which the current bill proposes to be matched to the cost of borrowing for the government (the 10-year bond rate).
Alongside this, the report recommends that HELP debt be recovered from Australians living overseas, a measure explored by Andrew Norton.
The Greens and the ALP both provide dissenting reports. The Labor senators on the panel, as was to be expected from their public comments, argue that the Senate should reject the bill in its present form. In doing this, they propose that the government introduce a separate bill, which will “deal with the non-controversial matters”.
By this, the Labor senators mean extending funding for research through the Future Fellowships scheme, changes to HECS for certain New Zealand citizens and the change of name for Federation University. The first of these is most problematic. Pyne has indicated that funding for research announced in the budget may not be forthcoming if the bill fails to pass. This is a situation that would have deep ramifications for Australia’s research effort and clearly something no side wants to be seen as responsible for.
The Greens go further in their recommendations, suggesting too that the bill be rejected by the Senate but calling for an inquiry to investigate the benefits of funding increases and, to match long-held Greens aspirations, the abolition of student fees altogether.
The committee’s report recognises that while the demand-driven system is an historic achievement, it comes at a significant cost to public revenue. The main report and dissenting reports acknowledge in different ways that the current state of affairs is ultimately unsustainable.
So what does this all mean?
31 October 2014
Don’t hold your breath, says Schwartz
Steven Schwartz was vice-chancellor of Macquarie University from 2006 to 2012 and is currently director of the Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. Interestingly he is an academic advisor to Centre for Independent Studies, libertarian thinktank “actively engaged in supporting a free enterprise economy and a free society under limited government where individuals can prosper and fully develop their talents”. With this background, you’d think Schwartz would be a natural proponent of university fee deregulation. You’d think wrong . In this opinion piece published in The Australian on 29 October Schwartz demonstrates himself to be somewhat of a sceptic that fee deregulation will result in a market in which price will reflect course value.
In 1989, the federal government set undergraduate university fees at $1800 a year. If prices had increased in line with inflation, the fee today would be $3481.
Instead, university fees range from $6044 to $10,085, vastly outstripping inflation.
This stratospheric increase would be an argument for government-mandated price controls except for one problem: the government did control university fees during the entire 25-year period. And it still does.
Without government price ceilings, university fees would have soared even higher. Vice-chancellors certainly wanted them to. If university prices are deregulated, as the government proposes, they will get their chance.
The Institute is currently advertising for the position of Associate Director. The successful applicant will be responsible for furthering stakeholder engagement as well as ensuring the suite of activities developed are meeting the needs of senior leaders and managers in the tertiary education sector. Excellent leadership and negotiating skills are essential.
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30 October 2014
Ferouz Myuddin, born in Brisbane’s Mater Hospital in November 2013 after his mother Latifar, an asylum seeker, was flown in from detention on Nauru because she needed a Caesarean section, has been deemed by Federal Court judge Michael Jarrett to be an “unauthorised maritime arrival“, and therefore cannot apply for the visa under current laws.
The family arrived at Christmas Island in September 2013, having fled Myanmar citing persecution for being part of the Muslim Rohingyar minority.
Much of Judge Jarrett’s ruling examined the concept of how baby Ferouz “entered Australia”, and whether the interpretation of the legislation applied to his birth. However, he found that the law determined any asylum seeker who arrived by means other than an aircraft was deemed an unauthorised maritime arrival.
Shaun Micalleff considers the threat to national security threat posed by such unauthorised arrivals.
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