Early data shows a drop off in students applying for university next year, and Labor is concerned that students are already being deterred by the prospect of skyrocketing fees under Christopher Pyne's unfair university changes.
Officials from the Department of Education confirmed during Senate Estimates last night that information provided to date by the various Tertiary Admissions Centres shows a significant 2.9 per cent decline in the number of students applying for university in 2015.
Shadow Higher Education Minister Kim Carr said he was worried the figures confirmed evidence provided to the Senate’s inquiry into the higher education legislation by the Vice Chancellor of Latrobe University and Chair of the Government’s implementation working party, Professor John Dewar.
Professor Dewar noted that for “those students for whom higher education is a discretionary choice—particularly mature-age and part-time students—the numbers are being affected.”
Education Minister Christopher Pyne claimed in this year’s budget that “The Abbott Government is committed to creating more opportunities for Australians wishing to undertake higher education” [13 May 2014].
But early enrolment figures show the Government’s plans to deregulate Australia’s universities look set to backfire.
With about one-third of students having submitted their applications for university enrolment next year, these early figures suggest students are being deterred from studying by the prospect of high cost degrees.
The uncapping of places under the former Labor Government saw an additional 190,000 students enrolled at university. Under Labor there was a strong increase in enrolments, which has flattened over recent years – until this year’s steep decline.
Departmental officials said they were unable to provide raw figures on the number of applications to date, instead taking the question on notice.
“We already know that the package proposed by the Abbott Government is not fair, not smart and not reasonable,” Senator Carr said.
“The early figures revealed today are very concerning. They point to the potential for a university education being put out of reach for many Australians as a result of Pyne’s disastrous plan.
“Equity in our higher education system could soon become a thing of the past.”
THURSDAY, 23 OCTOBER 2014