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Keep up to date on your education with this Higher Education Update

Want to understand what deregulation and privatisation of our universities will mean for you?

What changes are in store for us and future students?

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 High Wired update: Ticking all the boxes


Original Article

KEMP-NORTON recommendations expected to get go ahead; the open road to deregulation; and what students want to study.

Ticking all the boxes: Education minister Christopher Pyne’s clear signal that he backs the Kemp-Norton line in expanding the demand-driven system to sub-degree programs and opening up competition for subsidies to private providers leaves front and centre the question of who will pay for it. And given the government has no money (or, more correctly, only money for parental leave and fighter jets) that means they can be expected to follow Kemp-Norton all the way to the bank and slug students more. As many have pointed out, raising student fees or charging a fee on HELP loans will increase student debt that will appear as an asset in the budget – hey presto! Former education department deputy secretary Jim Davidson summed up the strong prospects for Kemp-Norton getting the go ahead when he said, “The recommendations really reflect a more politically saleable approach in that it actually meets the terms of reference, that is it is efficient, it is fiscally sustainable, and it supports innovation and competition.”

The open road on deregulation: But given that Mr Pyne says “deregulation” almost as often as “Robert Menzies,” will the government be going a step further move to deregulate fees? Long-time fee-deregulation cheerleader, Andrew Norton,has said the Kemp-Norton changes were pitched so they could be implemented without fee-deregulation, and he believes such deregulation remains a political non-starter in the short term. He made much of the fact that the sector itself isn’t unified on fee-deregulation, so why expect government to go out on a limb? “From a government point of view, why would you take a massive political risk in pursuing this issue when even the main beneficiaries will only give you ‘on the one hand this and the one hand that’ kind of support?” he asked. “It is going to be very difficult to progress this issue unless the interest groups come on side,” he said.


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Baby steps or all the way?: Any government is unlikely to ever get the likes of the student and staff unions to agree to fee-deregulation, and a first term “deregulation” government with a budget bogey to slay would appear the perfect platform to at least signal fee-deregulation. As Norton also pointed out, he sees opening up competition to private providers as a necessary first step to create competition to stop universities simply following the UK experience in fee-deregulation and simply hiking fees up uniformly to the new allowed maximum. Opening up competition as a first step would be canny politics, as it will get key parts of the sector on-board. The Group of Eight and, most recently, La Trobe vice chancellors are all cheering moves to open up competition, perhaps because they know it will eventually allow them to raise their fees in a deregulated education market.

Careful what you wish for: Amid all the talk about market deregulation, Glyn Davis this morning put out a timely tweet. Responding to Swinburne’s Andrew Dempster’s tweet reminding everyone of Davis’ 2012 Press Club address warning that markets change everything, Davis tweeted back, “Thanks Andrew – markets introduce creative destruction, and sometimes just destruction.” The open question for HW is whether opening up the market to savvy private operators will lead to any established universities hitting the wall, or more accurately, lead to any established universities needing to be bailed out from hitting the wall."



Students to ‘foot bill’ for reforms



THE federal government wants to open up the university sector to greater competition by making government subsidies available for students to study at private colleges and funding sub-degree places, such as ­diplomas and associate degrees.

Education Minister Christopher Pyne, speaking in London, will today push the case for tertiary sector deregulation, saying the Coalition wants to set providers “free” from red tape and bureaucracy.

But by backing deregulation he will increase speculation that students are likely to face higher fees.

Mr Pyne will support reforms contained in a government-commissioned report released two weeks ago by Howard government education minister David Kemp and economist Andrew Norton.

Mr Kemp and Mr Norton said that, to pay for expansion of the student funding system, the government would have to consider allowing universities set their own fees or add a 10 per cent fee to student loans.

“Ours is a deregulatory government,” Mr Pyne will say at the London-based think tank The Policy Exchange.

“The Coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths.”

Students say they should not have to foot the bill for extending government subsidies to ­private colleges and other providers.

National Union of Students president Deanna Taylor said: “We are concerned students will have to pay for deregulation.”

She said the NUS was planning strategies to deal with the possibility of increased fees, including a day of action on campuses on May 14.

The vice-chancellors of the Group of Eight universities last week began lobbying hard for deregulation of fees.

Warren Bebbington, head of the University of Adelaide, told The Australianyesterday that opening up the higher education sector to private colleges “would enrich the whole environment”.

“Some types of colleges will appear that we don’t have at the moment,” Professor Bebbington said.

“There will be a wider range of choice and price. But unlike what Mr Pyne says in his speech, that won’t help our position in international rankings which are based on research performance, not teaching.”

Currently, the government contributes about 60 per cent of the annual contribution for undergraduate education, with students paying the other 40 per cent via government loans known as HELP.

The loans are only repaid when students reach a specified minimum income level, currently $52,000.

Professor Bebbington said the government proposals would lead to a more dynamic higher education sector and the deregulation of fees would lead to some courses being much cheaper.

“Some universities will be discounting to sustain volume (of student numbers), especially if they are using a lot of online units,” he said."


Davis lays it on the line: universities fail to make their funding case with voters

Campus Morning Mail, 29/04/2014

Original Article

At the Sydney Institute last night the Prime Minister outlined budget priorities, including higher education. “Universities’ funding will shift but they will have much more freedom to innovate and to build on Australia’s strength as a magnet for students, teachers and researchers from around the world.” Sounds like he has been talking to Education Minister Christopher Pyne about deregulation, but what does “funding will shift” mean?

Allowing private providers to enrol Commonwealth funded students, “will ultimately lead to students and their families paying the price through higher fees and a lower quality educational experience.” President Jeannie Rea said the deregulation of training in Victoria indicated what would happen, “not only has the Victorian experiment failed to deliver students with in-demand skills and qualifications, it has resulted in significant increases in student fees, as well as high levels of deceptive and misleading advertising and marketing practices by private Research Training Organisations (RTOs).” Nearly half the Group of Eight VCs and La Trobe’s John Dewar are on the record of endorsing competition but I wonder if all their peers agree. Watching responses to Mr Pyne’s proposals is going to be fascinating.


Glyn Davis has paid the University of Melbourne Student Association the courtesy of a reply to its petition protesting his call for a debate on increasing student fees (CMM April 24).The Vice Chancellor sent staff and students a 1500 word essay yesterday setting out the case for at least considering students’ paying more. Professor Davis made the well known points, notably that university funding per student head has dropped for decades – but he went further and frankly stated what the university lobbies always duck, that higher education is electorally impotent – that governments can run funding down because it costs them nothing at the ballot box. “Put bluntly, the electorate believes university students do well after graduation, earning more than most. The case for investing more on higher education makes compelling sense to students and staff but rarely moves the wider community,” he said. And if the government does cut funding but allows universities to raise fees to make up (some?, all?) the loss what is Uni Melbourne to do? Professor Davis spelt it out; “do we accept a fall in quality as the public subsidy diminishes yet again, or seek flexibility to match the student contribution to the real cost of delivering tertiary education and address inadequacies in the current system? This question is bigger than fee levels, since it goes to a status quo already riddled with inequitable distribution of available public funding. It is not in students’ interests to reduce the quality of their education to avoid unpopular fee rises. This is a choice no one welcomes, but a question we cannot avoid.” A case well made – light on rhetoric heavy on real politick. But what would happen if the feds allowed universities to charge what they chose but refused to loan students the extra money via HECs? This debate has a way to run.

The February international student numbers are out and they are ambiguous again. Earlier this month figures from the feds for January showed total year on year numbers for higher and vocational education were marginally down. The baddish news was discounted because the sample was small. February university enrolments were up 2.5 per cent on Feb ‘13 but commencements declined 2.8 per cent. However the government points out 22 universities started semester in February 2013, compared to 16 this year. “A comprehensive picture of first semester 2014 for higher education is not expected until the release of March data,” the feds suggest.



Greens condemn Abbott’s elitist plan for universities

Greens, 29/04/2014

Original Article

Greens higher education spokesperson Senator Lee Rhiannon has called on Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne to come clean on their plans to increase student fees and deregulate the university system. “For months, Mr Pyne has deflected questions about his plans to impose a privatised university system by hiding by the budget. Now he is warding off questions by making these announcements overseas”, Senator Rhiannon said. Senator Rhiannon was responding to Mr Pyne’s comments about university deregulation, made today in London. “Fee deregulation is code for jacking up fees at Australia’s highest ranked universities – and creating a more unequal, elitist education system. “Calls to increase student fees to fund subsidies for private, for-profit teaching institutions have been opposed by The Greens, students, and university staff. This would hurt our public universities, which are already facing cuts. “The Abbott government is already trying to ram through $2.4 billion in cuts to universities. The cuts will increase the debt of the most disadvantaged students by up to 50%, with student debt projected to skyrocket over the next decade” Senator Rhiannon said. “When Mr Pyne returns to Australia, he must be prepared to come clean to students. They deserve to know that they will be footing the bill for the government’s elitist university plan.”


Christopher Pyne on the future of Australian higher education

Times Higher Education, 29/04/2014

Original Article

The Australian government is considering the findings of a review into the future of its ‘demand-driven’ higher education system. Speaking in London on 28 April, the Australian education minister Christopher Pyne shared his thoughts on the state of the sector and the challenges and opportunities it faces. Here is an extract from his lecture: Until 2012, Australian universities could not determine how many undergraduate places they would offer overall or in individual subjects, nor how much they could charge for their courses. While I have borrowed the term, ‘Moscow on the Molonglo’ (referring to the river that runs through Canberra) is an apt description of how we have regulated higher education in Australia. The demand-driven system did away with the concept of capping places on a Canberra-knows-best basis. I can assure you unreservedly that the coalition government will continue to take steps to set higher education providers free, provide them with more autonomy, and challenge them to map out their futures according to their strengths. Accountability for public and private funds is entirely appropriate. But accountability should be about protecting quality and safeguarding public trust, not about exercising command and control from the centre. This is the basic philosophical difference between the current Australian government and that which it replaced. Labor sees an innovation and says ‘regulate it’, the coalition sees an opportunity and says ‘seize it’. In striving for a fiscally sustainable system, and in trying simply to keep up with demand for public education in particular, we have sometimes lost sight of the need for a relentless focus on autonomy, quality and opportunity.



Abbott confirms university deregulation

ABC News/RN Breakfast, 29/04/2014

Original Article

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has confirmed that Australian universities will be deregulated, paving the way for private institutions to compete for Commonwealth support. US style deregulation could also lead to the removal of existing caps on student fees.



Facing the hard questions on university funding

The Conversation, Glyn Davis (VC University of Melbourne), 28/04/2014

Original Article

A public university owes a wide debt to society. Among our obligations is to ensure the wisest use of public funding for education. So the subject of Commonwealth university policy demands attention. Inevitably the issue is more than fees.  Yet the question of fees is very important. A petition from the University of Melbourne Student Union, signed by hundreds of students in recent weeks, puts the issue frankly.  Everyone on campus, staff and student alike, has a history with the question of who pays for tertiary education. For me, this began in 1978 as one first-year arts student among many, marching in protest against cuts to higher education imposed by the Fraser government. We could not know that funding per student had already peaked, and would fall steadily for the next three decades despite all the marches, demonstrations, campaigns and political lobbying ahead. Now Malcolm Fraser is protesting against cuts to higher education expenditure. As the former prime minister told graduates at Macquarie University recently, “education is the best and most important investment that this country can make”. 


Students will bear the cost of Pyne’s subsidy to private providers

NTEU Media Release, 28/04/2014

Original Article

The National Tertiary Education Union says that Australian university students and their families will be expected to pay the price for the Government’s ideologically driven desire to change the way Australian higher education is regulated and funded.  According to reports, in a speech the Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne will deliver in London today, he will say that;

“… the recommendations of the Kemp-Norton Review with respect to expanding the demand driven system to diplomas and extending the Commonwealth Grants Scheme to students of all higher education providers have much to recommend them” [Campus Morning Mail,http://campusmorningmail.com.au/, 28 April 2014] “If the Government goes ahead and makes Commonwealth Grants Scheme funding for Commonwealth supported student places available to all higher education providers, including for-profit providers, we know from experience that this will ultimately lead to students and their families paying the price through higher fees and a lower quality educational experience,” Jeannie Rea, National President NTEU said today. The evidence shows that private for-profit providers offered popular low cost courses in areas like personal training and not in the high-cost, critical skills areas such as apprenticeships, which have not increased in number for a decade. “Not only has the Victorian experiment failed to deliver students with in demand skills and qualifications, it has resulted in significant increases in student fees, as well as high levels of deceptive and misleading  advertising and marketing practices by private Research Training Organisations (RTOs),” said Ms Rea. “The wash up of all of this market based reform is it that it has undermined the financial stability of many of Victoria’s TAFE institutes.  This has resulted in over 2,500 job losses, the closure of campuses and discontinuation of hundreds of courses.  According the latest financial data, half of Victoria’s TAFE’s reported an operating loss in 2013 and at least two regional TAFEs will not proceed as ongoing concerns. “The Australian higher education system has strong integrity, standards and international reputation, as was reiterated in the Kemp-Norton review. It would be tragedy to undermine the sustainability of public investment and the viability of our public universities and the international reputation of the sector by handing over public subsidies to private organisations to bolster their profits”, concluded Jeannie Rea.



Greens want answers on uni fees

The Australian, 29/04/2014

Original Article

THE Greens yesterday called on education minister Christopher Pyne to come clean on whether the government is considering deregulating university fees. The Greens have seized on speculation that the government ultimately wants to pursue fee deregulation. In a speech in London yesterday, Mr Pyne backed recommendations from a recent review to open up competition for government subsidised places to private and other non-university providers. The authors of the review, former Howard education minister David Kemp and Andrew Norton from the think tank the Grattan Institute, say exposing the system to more competition as a necessary prerequisite for any fee deregulation. “For months, Mr Pyne has deflected questions about his plans to impose a privatised university system by hiding behind the budget. Now he is warding off questions by making these announcements overseas” Greens higher education spokeswoman Lee Rhiannon said. Mr Pyne’s office yesterday wouldn’t comment on fee deregulation, but said it welcomed the debate. In the wake of the Kemp-Norton review being released a growing list of vice-chancellors have advocated for either an increased or deregulated fees. The Kemp-Norton review argues that TAFEs would be one of the beneficiaries of opening the system to competition as they currently have to charge full fees for higher education qualifications. It has said that other providers applying for commonwealth subsidies would have to meet the same regulations and requirements as universities.



High Wired update: Open question

The Australian, 29/04/2014

Original Article

Fee speculation: Glyn Davis likes a debate and he’s not one to shy away from criticism. Yesterday, he sent students and staff a long and considered response to a student petition that had accused him of him of backing higher student fees instead of their position for increased government funding. The students won’t agree with him, but at least he has put his position clearly on the line.

Word of warning: HW received a missive from Paul Kniest, the NTEU’s policy and research officer, who reckons opening public funding to private operators will not only result in a rerun of the Victorian VET debacle but worse. “The open question is whether opening up the market to savvy private operators will lead to any established universities hitting the wall, or more accurately, lead to any established universities needing to be bailed out from hitting the wall.”


Higher ed leads the way

The Australian, 29/04/2014

Original Article

FIVE of Australia’s top markets for inbound education have more students in higher education than in any other sector. Of the 119,237 Chinese students here last year, 61.9 per cent were in higher education and just 8.2pc in vocational education and training, according to Australian Education International. The No. 2 market, India, of rapidly growing importance to our universities, still had more of its students (49.8pc of 36,208) in VET. The higher education share was 41.8pc. In third place with 20,078 students, Korea had students spread across higher education (31.1pc), VET (32.4pc) and English language courses (26.5pc). Of Vietnam’s 20,078 students, 45.5pc were in higher education and 29.1pc in English courses with only 15.5pc in VET. Reforms and incentives, such as streamlined visas and post-study work rights, favour higher education. Brazil, the No.8 market, had most of its 12,634 students (57.1pc) in English courses.


Pyne backs US-style uni system

Daily Telegraph, 29/04/2014

Original Article

EDUCATION Minister Christopher Pyne is looking to the United States' model as he reforms the Australian university sector to compete in the global market. Australia has 19 universities in the world's top 500 while the United States has 149, China has 28 and the UK has 37. Mr Pyne told a Policy Exchange education forum in London that Australia had much to learn from the US, which had made going to undergraduate college a "rite of passage". "We are at risk of being left behind, we need a renewed ambition and it must be bold," Mr Pyne said. The US has a system of teaching-only undergraduate colleges offering only Bachelor degrees. These colleges are saved the expense of research programs or higher degree courses. In 2012, the Gillard Labor government allowed universities to determine how many federally funded undergraduate degree places they would offer, doing away with the system of capping places. The change has seen undergraduate places expand to 577,000. "The (review) recommendations with respect to expanding the demand-driven system to diplomas and extending the commonwealth grants scheme to students of all higher education providers have much to recommend them," Mr Pyne said. He said Australian universities faced growing competition from overseas-based online providers. "Our answer will be, above all, to set our universities free," he said. "The challenges of which I speak call for diversity in our institutions, for flexibility, quality and innovation in domestic and global education."



Changes afoot, but uni to preserve reputation

The Examiner, 28/04/2014

Original Article

AUSTRALIAN universities are expecting some changes around the deregulation of the university sector by the federal government, yet exactly what form that takes is yet to be seen, according to the University of Tasmania Provost. Professor Mike Calford, who took up his position based at the Newnham campus last month, said the university was ``neutral'' on the subject for the moment, but it would base its reaction on the make-up of the student body. However, he said it was vital Australian universities retained a good reputation to continue to encourage international students to the country. ``We don't have a student body that necessarily could afford higher fees so we're very much dependent upon the package that comes with those higher fees,'' Professor Calford said. ``Even the strongest universities pushing for this want a package of higher fees to be supported by appropriate financial support by those who need it and so we would have to support it in that way.

``On the other hand the university sector is a very big part of the Australian economy and we have to think carefully about not damaging that.'' National Tertiary Education Union president Jeannie Rea said changes to the current set-up would ultimately lead to students and their families paying more but getting a lower quality educational experience. Federal Greens higher education spokeswoman Senator Lee Rhiannon said Mr Pyne had to ``come clean'' on his plans to increase student fees.


Higher ed changes would cost budget: Pyne

Herald Sun, 29/04/2014

Original Article

EDUCATION Minister Christopher Pyne says an overhaul of the higher education sector would come at a cost to the federal budget rather than save money. The Abbott government has reviewed Labor changes that allowed universities to determine how many federally funded undergraduate degree places they offer. Mr Pyne told the Policy Exchange think tank in London on Monday he would be pushing for further deregulation of the education market. "The (review) recommendations with respect to expanding the demand-driven system to diplomas and extending the commonwealth grants scheme to students of all higher education providers have much to recommend them," Mr Pyne said, adding Australian universities faced growing competition from overseas-based online providers. After his speech the minister was asked if opening up the commonwealth grants scheme to private institutions would mean less funding for public universities. "If we were to expand the demand-driven system to diplomas and sub-bachelor courses, and if we were to expand the commonwealth grants scheme to private providers or non-university higher education providers, that would be a cost to the budget." "We don't see education as an area where savings should be found. "But through competition and autonomy ... we would grow our international export market and produce the best education system in the world and allow some of our great universities to become the very best in the world." He was asked about the potential for a 10 per cent fee on top of student loans or allowing universities to charge whatever fees they saw fit. Mr Pyne said the government would respond to the review suggestions "at the appropriate time". "The budget will reveal the entire suite of policies that the government will put to the Australian people over the next two-and-a-half years," he said.





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