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Higher education reforms referred back to Senate Committee

12 February 2015

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Labor, the Greens and four independent senators (Senators Xenophon, Lambie, Muir, Rhiannon and Lazarus) have joined forces to establish another inquiry into higher education reform, to report by 17 March.

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The committee will consider alternatives to deregulation, likely future demand for places and implications on student loans, research infrastructure and regional provision. The inquiry will also look to investigate “the appropriateness and accuracy of government -advertising in support of higher education measures” and “other related matters”.

The University of Canberra is to hold a forum on 13 February to discuss alternatives to fee deregulation, to which key senators have been invited.

 Michelle McAulay/AAP Image

Vice-chancellor Stephen Parker expects the legislation will be rejected for a second time by the Senate and wants to encourage a national discussion on alternatives to deregulation.

Parker, a strident opponent of the government package, told The Australian that the government’s failure to review any options to deregulation was a “process failure” that went against the recommendations of its own commission of audit.

Not only is it a process failure but it is a democratic failure because it wasn’t flagged at the last election and it was even denied at the election. So I can’t see someone like senator Nick Xenophon accepting that.

Parker acknowledged that deregulation might be part of further discussions, but he remained unconvinced of the case for uncapping fees,  saying there is no guarantee that higher fee revenue would be used for a student’s course, and that is the one design flaw above all others.

Senate Inquiry Terms of Reference

That the following matters be referred to the Education and Employment References Committee for inquiry and report by 17 March 2015:
(a) the principles of the Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014;
(b) alternatives to deregulation in order to maintain a sustainable higher education system;
(c) the latest data and projections on student enrolments, targets, dropout rates and the Higher Education Loans Program;
(d) structural adjustment pressures, and the adequacy of proposed measures to sustain high quality delivery of higher education in Australia’s regions;
(e) the appropriateness and accuracy of government advertising in support of higher education measures, including those previously rejected by the Senate;
(f) research infrastructure; and
(g) any other related matters.

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