Labor’s Policies on Tertiary Education

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Higher Education

 Student Funding Guarantee

Labor has committed to supporting the demand driven system which has seen an additional 190,000 students enrolled at university since 2009.

A Labor government will introduce a new Student Funding Guarantee to provide certainty to universities and remove the need for higher fees.

Under a Labor Government, average funding per undergraduate student in 2018 will be more than $11,800, which it says would be $2,500 than under a Coalition government. Funding for the guarantee will be indexed.

Restoration of research block grant funding

Labor proposes to restore $370m in funding cut from  research grants  by the Abbott-Turnbull governments since 2015.  The government has cut Cooperative Research grants by more than $100m and Sustainable Research Excellence funding by $263m.

The ALP is committed to following, Future Research Excellence ($172.7m), Collaborative Research Networks ($57m), Cooperative Research Centres  ($44m), Australian Institute for Biosecurity ($76.9m) and Industrial Transformation Research Program ($24m).

Debt-free STEM Degrees

A Labor government will provide a financial incentive for students to enrol in, and complete, a STEM undergraduate degree, in recognition of the significant public benefit of growing Australia’s STEM capacity.

Labor will offer 20,000 STEM Award Degrees a year for five years. Upon graduation, the entire HECS-HELP debt will be written off, meaning these students can graduate debt free.

At present, an average science graduate will take eight years to pay off the $44,000 HECS debt they leave university with.

University of Tasmania Jobs and Growth Package

A Labor government proposes to invest $150 million in the education-driven economic revival of North and North-Western Tasmania to improve education outcomes and deliver jobs.  UTAS will provide $75 and the State government would be asked to provide $75 million.

Under the $300 million co-investment plan with the University of Tasmania, two new campuses will be constructed at Inveresk in Launceston and West Park in Burnie.

It will create 3,110 jobs, including 265 additional academic and professional staff jobs and support 12 000 new students into higher education in North and North-West Tasmania

The plan is estimated to deliver $1.1 billion economic output during the construction phase alone and an additional $428 million a year in economic activity.

Regional Incubators and Accelerators

Through a  Regional Innovation Fund, Labor proposes to invest in an expansion of the network of hubs and accelerators across the country, focussing on regional and rural sites. Labor will also support the continuation and expansion of existing university-based hubs and accelerators in metropolitan and outer-metropolitan universities.

Labor Government would fund the establishment of up to 20 new accelerators over three years, based on applications from consortia that must include, at a minimum:

  • a regional university or TAFE;
  • local government(s); and
  • a local business organisation (such as a Chamber of Commerce) or a group of local businesses.

Each consortium would receive seed funding of up to $500,000 per year for three years, which must be matched at least dollar-for-dollar with funding from the consortium or other sources.

Productivity and Performance  Commission

Labor says universities must be better attuned to the future labour market and the needs of employers. Improvements in access to big data and advanced analytics capabilities will assist in developing better labour market profiles and forecasting skills needs.

In consultation with universities, Labor proposes to establish an independent Higher Education Productivity and Performance Commission to drive these labour market outcomes. Similar Commissions are common in other developed economies; in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Hong Kong, and provide good examples of best practice for Australia to consider.

Clearer Information For Parents and Students

Labor promises to do more to ensure that students and parents have the information they need to make good decisions. Before enrolling for a degree, students should have access to information like what the average salary is upon graduation, and career opportunities upon graduation.

Startup Year To Create More Startups

Labor proposes to boost Australia’s young aspiring entrepreneurial talent by providing income contingent loans to students to support their participation in university accelerators or similar incubators run by successful entrepreneurs.

Startup loans will be offered to 2,000 students and new graduates each year who want to establish a startup within a university-based (or similar) accelerator. The loan will cover the cost of the support provided to them by an accredited accelerator program and accredited non-award programs and initiatives, up to the maximum annual student contribution level under the HECS system.

Getting More Students To Graduate

Some 23% of people who started a degree as full-time students in 2006 had not completed it after eight years. There is evidence that attrition rates have been getting worse in recent years, meaning even more students are likely to leave university with a debt but no degree.

A Labor Government will set an ambitious goal to increase the number of students completing their study by 20,000 graduates per year from 2020.

Labor will work with the university sector to ensure that incentives within the demand driven system are introduced to achieve this goal.

Restoring Trove

Trove is an initiative of the National Library of Australia, and provides online access to collections of books, photographs, newspapers, maps and historical documents. It is one of the largest digital cultural collections in the world, some 471 million items and more than 20 million unique users every year. It was to cease collecting material as a result of a funding  cut to the National Library of almost $6 million ($5.969 million).  Labor proposes to restore that funding.

VET Policy 


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Review of VET

Labor proposes to undertake a comprehensive National Vocational Education and Training Sector Review to build a stronger VET sector and weed out dodgy providers and student rip-offs – the forst comprehensive rview since the Kangan Report in 1974.

National TAFE Funding Guarantee

Labor says it has a plan to back TAFE into the future by developing a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the unique role of TAFE as our public provider and delivers on this by working with the states and territories to provide ongoing guaranteed TAFE funding. In government, Labor proposes to work with Premiers and Chief Ministers on a comprehensive National Priority Plan that defines the unique role of TAFE and places it squarely as the public provider within the VET sector and as the cornerstone of our economy’s need to train and retrain its workforce and deliver on improving the participation, productivity, innovation and growth efforts required for the nation.

Restoring integrity to the VET System

A Labor government will introduce a loan cap of $8,000 a year in the VET FEE-HELP program as part of an integrity package to stop the massive waste of taxpayers’ money, to prevent price gouging of students and improve training outcomes. Other measures will include:

  • Ensuring that funding for providers is linked to student progress
  • Set national priorities to help meet the skills needs of industry
  • Crackdown on the use of brokers to recruit students
  • Ensure that only the highest quality colleges get access to funding
  • Tougher powers to audit, investigate and suspend unscrupulous providers.

Selected top providers in 2014, their funding and student outcomes


Apprentice quota on Commonwealth projects 

One in ten jobs on priority federally-funded infrastructure projects to be apprentices, creating 10,000 new apprenticeships over 4 years.  This requirement will apply for federally funded infrastructure, construction and defence projects with capital expenditure valued at over $10 million, and will apply throughout the supply chain.


‘Apprentice Ready’ is a 20-week, pre-apprenticeship course for trades on the National Skills Needs List, delivered through TAFEs that Labor says will offer 10,000 apprenticeships.  Delivered through the TAFE system, Apprentice Ready will be targeted to young Australians who have been unemployed for six months or more.

Labor will also provide an additional incentive payment of $1,000 to employers who hire Apprentice Ready apprentices.

Working Futures Program

Labor’s Working Futures program will focus on the young people who are finding it hardest to break into the jobs market. Each year, the program will support 20,000 people aged between 15 and 24 through a comprehensive work and training program that sets them on track for a life in work.

  • A six-week work readiness course focusing on essential employment skills as well as personal presentation, interview techniques and job hunting.
  • A six-month work placement with an employer, paid at an award-equivalent training wage.
  • A fully-funded Certificate III in a subject of their choice, at a TAFE or reputable private provider.

Mature age apprenticeships

A pilot of a National Skills Recognition Entitlement program with 5,000 places to help mature-aged, retrenched workers fast-track into apprenticeships.   The pilot will help map the skills workers have to emerging occupations and relevant apprenticeship or technical traineeship qualifications.

Apprenticeship portal & advocate 

Labor proposes to establish an Apprenticeships Connect portal to help would-be apprentices connect with available work and training opportunities more easily.

It will aso ppoint a dedicated Apprentice Advocate to focus on apprentice retention and completion, as well as taking on a broader advocacy role promoting quality apprentice training.

Tools for Your Trade

Labor will restore the Tools for Your Trade program from 1 July 2017, at a cost of $285 million over 4 years,  with workers starting an apprenticeship ing eligible for $3,000 in payments throughout their training.

Group training funding

Labor will invest in Group Training so that these organisations can help to get more apprentices into work, with $10 million a year in new funding over the next four years.



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