The system’s not broken, the Government wants to break it

The Abbott Government’s deeply unfair higher education proposals have not received unqualified support from any vice-chancellor.

But now that the legislation is being debated in the Senate, some vice-chancellors are desperately lobbying for parts of Christopher Pyne’s package in the vain hope that others will be dropped.

Today Professor John Dewar, Vice-Chancellor of La Trobe University and Chair of the Innovative Research Universities, declared: “Neither Labor, the Greens nor the PUP have offered an alternative to what is now a broken system, other than arguing for free education”.

Universities know this is not true.  

Labor introduced HECS (now HELP), the income-contingent student loan system that has served Australia so well.

We are not arguing for free university education, but we will always stand up for ensuring access for those not born to wealth. We will never be party to imposing crippling debt on graduates.

We fundamentally oppose the Abbott Government’s plan for fee deregulation, funding cuts and real interest rates on HELP debts, which will destroy the fair go in access to universities.

And we do not agree that the system is not broken – but it will be if the Pyne package is passed.

Under Labor, university funding increased by 100 per cent across the forward estimates. The result is clear for all to see – 190,000 more undergraduate students and a university system that outperforms its peers in global rankings.

It is the Abbott Government that is abandoning its responsibility to fund universities adequately.

If all the Budget measures are passed, $5.8 billion will be ripped out of university funding and student support.

By calling for fee deregulation, vice-chancellors are simply encouraging the Government to stick by its short-sighted funding cuts – and giving it the green light for more cuts.

Uncapped fees will mean higher fees, and tinkering with other parts of the package won’t change that.

Australians know this, and they resent the Government for its broken promises and trashing the Australian ethos of the fair go. They do not want a university education to become a privilege of the rich.

In a survey of public attitudes released today by Universities Australia, fewer than one in four respondents supported the Pyne plan.

The Abbott Government should abandon its deeply unfair proposals, accept its responsibility to fund universities, and start again.


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