ACPET National Monday Update 19 January 2015


In Focus

Higher education reforms critical

The critical challenge for our sector continues to be the Higher Education and Reform Bill, which failed to pass the Senate. You would all be aware that Minister for Education subsequently reintroduced an amended Bill to the House of Representatives for consideration.

While the amended Bill preserves essential elements of the reforms, the new Bill includes the following changes:

  • retain indexation of outstanding student debt by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rather than the 10-year bond rate previously proposed;
  • a pause on HECS indexation for primary carers of children under 5 years;
  • a structural adjustment fund to assist universities to transition to a more competitive market, particularly in regional areas;
  • a new scholarship fund within the Higher Education and Participation program for universities with high proportions of low SES students; and
  • a guarantee that domestic student fees will be lower than international student fees.

Already this year has seen continued media reporting on the proposed reforms and most notably, the use of template letters for so called ‘students’ to sign to show their lack of support for the reforms.

The defeat of the Reforms was a major blow for our sector and particularly for low SES and regional students across Australia. A fact that is not being reported is that extending government supported places to non-university higher education providers and removing the 25 percent administration fee for HELP assistance will create a more level playing field for all higher education students.

Blocking these reforms means students at private colleges will continue to pay full fees and face higher debt levels to access loan assistance compared to their public university contemporaries. It also means a lack of new competition in the sector, another important dimension in ensuring University fees do not skyrocket and that flexible, innovative options abound.

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