Andrew Nikolic must act to save higher education in Bass

Shadow Minister for Higher Education Kim Carr and Labor Senator Helen Polley have today called on Bass Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic to stand up and defend the University of Tasmania.

UTAS Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen has warned that the Abbott Government’s $30 million cut to its funding may force the university to raise student fees, slash courses and abandon research.

The university’s Newnham campus in Launceston features some 6000 students and is a key economic driver for the region.

“Tasmania is already reeling from Tony Abbott’s budget of broken promises and now the state has to bear the full brunt of Christopher Pyne’s shambolic higher education changes,” Senator Carr said.

“The decision by this Government to reduce course fee contributions and embark on sudden deregulation is already having a serious effect.

“This government isn’t just a short-sighted one, it is a cruel one. The University of Tasmania, like many universities across the nation, just isn’t in a position where it can recoup reductions in funding.

“That leaves the university with no options but to cut the quality of education offered or hit students with crippling levels of debt, or both. I think that Tasmanians should be furious that higher education will no longer be accessible to them, that it will be beyond their reach.”

Senator Carr said Christopher Pyne should listen closely to the views of students and parents in Tasmania as well as Vice-Chancellor Peter Rathjen.

“Is he listening to those people in Tasmania who will now struggle to access higher education? Is he listening to his own backbenchers such as Mr Nikolic, who must surely be eyeing this latest announcement with concern?”

Senator Polley said that the University of Tasmania was vital to the future of Tasmania and an institution that Mr Nikolic should be defending at all costs.

“Mr Nikolic cannot allow UTAS to suffer without a fight. He needs to stand up to his colleagues in Canberra and deliver for the Newnham campus, which employs many people in Launceston and undertakes valuable research in fields such as biomedical science.”

Senator Polley also noted that this latest body blow to UTAS comes just weeks after Mr Nikolic was caught red handed taking credit for 180 new student apartments at the Newnham campus under Labor’s National Rental Affordability Scheme, a scheme that was unceremoniously scrapped in the federal Budget.

“This is what we have come to expect from Mr Nikolic. He was more than happy to attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony and speak loudly about how he delivered new student apartments for the Newnham campus, even though it was a Labor policy,” Senator Polley said.

“But when it comes to standing up for the university and protecting the integrity of higher education in the region he is suddenly as quiet as a mouse. Is he willing to sit by and do nothing as research is discarded and fees escalate beyond the reach of average Tasmanians?

“I guess time will tell but from what we know so far he is all about self-promotion and not protecting the interests of the people of Bass.”


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