Higher education shambles continues

More universities are abandoning the Abbott Government’s higher education policies as its implications and unpopularity become clear, Shadow Minister for Higher Education Senator Kim Carr said today.

“It’s clear the wheels are falling off this ill-considered and retrograde policy – students and their families are concerned and angry, universities are increasingly alarmed and some on the Government’s own backbench are on the verge of rebellion,” Senator Carr said.

“This is a repeat of the Kemp fiasco of 2002 – when a similar policy was abandoned after backlash, like we’ve recently seen.

“It is clear now that this policy is a massive cut to higher education in search of a plan.

“It is not a plan – it’s a shambles. A shambles that the Government will need to abandon in the coming weeks.”

More vice-chancellors are expressing alarm at some of these changes:

  • University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Peter Hoj:  “I am generally concerned about the changes to the loan repayments. I do think that was very unexpected and I think that this is one of these things that really make the cuts to the Government funding for students sting more than we had anticipated.”
  • Deakin University Vice-Chancellor Jane den Hollander has moved to protect students enrolling now from the early effects of changes of this policy. “We will not see those students disadvantaged by random dates or the unintended consequences of policy … I am annoyed the Government has so misunderstood the cycle of higher education,” she said.
  • Victoria University has followed Deakin’s lead to “provide students with certainty around the financial commitment they are making to undertake their chosen course and also it will give the University time to make important decisions about our strategic response to the Government cuts”.
  • Swinburne University Vice-Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson has been highly critical of the government’s package. In an email to staff she said that “deregulation will inevitably lead to much higher fees for our students … Over time, full fee deregulation will lead to a higher education system characterised by the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.”  She has also expressed grave concerns about student debt and quality, “We risk repeating the failures of deregulation of the Victorian vocational education system all over again unless our higher education regulatory arrangements are mature, stable and effective. It is concerning that the budget for TEQSA is being cut by $31 million.”
  • Australian Catholic University Vice-Chancellor Greg Craven has raised concerns about the effects of this package. He said, “The effect will be that the ‘mighty middle’ of the university sector – the ATNs, the great outer suburbans and the quality regionals – will go quietly into that good night of being colleges of (slightly) advanced education … Is it really worth a couple of Australian universities getting very slightly better – and there will never be an Australian Harvard – at the cost of the remainder becoming very much worse?”

“These vice-chancellors join others from institutions such as the universities of Sydney, Adelaide, Melbourne, James Cook, Western Sydney, University of Technology Sydney, Newcastle, Canberra, Charles Sturt, Federation University, South Australia and Southern Cross which have all raised concerns with aspects of this package,” Senator Carr said.


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