01 mai 2014

Audit Commission’s proposal to increase student fees to promote quality and access won’t work says NTEU

By Jeannie Rea (NTEU National Office). Increasing the cost of getting a university degree through increasing HELP fees plus deregulating fees is not the way to ensure Australia has a robust and internationally reputable higher education system, claimed the National Tertiary Education Union today.
“The Abbott Government’s Commission of Audit recommendations on higher education arrangements slide in too neatly with Minister of Education Pyne’s recent speech in England and the recommendations from the Kemp-Norton Review of the Demand Driven Funding System,” said National President Jeannie Rea.
“You could be excused for thinking they have all just developed the same script. There is agreement that universities are critical to Australia’s economic and social development, yet also the view that government can abrogate responsibility to adequately fund our public universities to meet these challenges.”
The Commission of Audit recommends that students pay a significantly higher proportion of the costs of their education, increasing the student’s component of a Commonwealth supported place from 41% to 55%. Additionally, it is recommended that the repayment interest rate is increased, and the repayment kicks in at the minimum wage level.
“This recommendation is introduced with the statement: Commonwealth funding of higher education promotes quality and equity of access, while contributing to a more skilled and productive workforce.
“The NTEU agrees, but the Commission’s recommendations if implemented will backfire. There is a level at which concern about accumulating debt and earlier repayment will be a deterrent for both school leavers and mature age potential students taking on a degree program. Fear of accumulating debt is likely to lead to poorer performance and greater attrition leaving people without a degree, but still a debt  to repay on the minimum wage”, explained Rea.
“The Commission also calls for options to be developed “to increase competition in Australia's education system through a partial or full deregulation of fees for bachelor degrees”. This recommendation is based upon blind faith in market solutions to improve quality and innovation. However, the more likely outcome is some universities and courses competing to see just how high a fee they can get away with, while others whither as they undermine one another competing to offer the cheapest option.
“Public universities funded by government are accountable to their students, staff and the broader community. They are founded by Acts of Parliament and have missions to serve the public interest.  Universities play a critical role in the economy and society, and are far too important to be set adrift in the market,” said Rea. More...

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