The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is confident that today’s Senate decision to refer the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 to the Senate’s Education and Employment Legislation Committee will expose Minister Pyne’s policy agenda as one that will undermine the fundamental characteristic of Australia’s public higher education system: where access is based on a student’s academic ability and not their capacity to pay.
The Inquiry will be presented with evidence that will clearly show that:
The proposal to impose market determined interest rates on HELP debt will impact most heavily on low income graduates and those who take career breaks, predominantly women;
The 20% cut in funding per student will impact heavily upon regional and outer metropolitan universities, who are most reliant on government funding as they will be constrained in their ability to compensate for lost revenue from increased student fees;
The operation of the new Commonwealth scholarship scheme is structurally flawed and inherently unfair on those universities with relatively large numbers of disadvantaged students;
The cuts to research training funding and the introduction of tuition fees for higher degree research (PhD) students will make pursuing an academic or research career even more unattractive for Australia’s brightest students; and
The opening up of government supported places to private for-profit providers will undermine the financial viability of some of our public universities just as similar policies in Victorian vocational education have failed public TAFE institutes.
NTEU National President, Jeannie Rea said that “the inquiry will provide an opportunity for the supporters of these changes to present credible evidence to allay the legitimate concerns of the bulk of the Australian community who are firmly opposed to the changes.”
“The Inquiry will present Australia’s vice-chancellors with the opportunity to categorically rule out the possibility of $100,000 degrees as a result of Mr Pyne’s proposal to remove the cap on university fees,” Rea said.
“The NTEU encourages all those who have interest in the future of Australian higher education including students, staff and parents of existing and future students to make a submission to the inquiry,” Rea concluded.
Details for the inquiry can be found at Senate Education and Employment Committee website. The Inquiry will report back to the Senate by 27 October 2014.