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Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014

Senate Inquiry website

Senate Inquiry on Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 – link to Inquiry site.

Isolated Children’s Parents’ Association

From the ICPA submission: ‘Our association sees many of the changes proposed as presenting further deterrents to accessing tertiary education for rural and remote students who already have disproportionate low enrolments in tertiary institutions when compared to metropolitan students. … Often students return to rural areas to help strengthen their communities with the knowledge they have gained in their chosen fields e.g. in the areas of medicine – country GPs and veterinary science. Some of these young adults find employment difficult due to periodic regional downturns or they may have to wait for some time before securing a position in the bush and while working towards employment, their HECS/HELP debt would be increasing even though they may have limited income. One consequence is likely to be the loss of these young people to the urban centres where they can earn more and pay off their debt sooner.’

Central Queensland University

Extract from the Central Queensland University submission: ‘ … there are a number of critical ifine-tuning’ aspects of the reforms that are essential to ensuring universities who service thin regional markets, and/or cohorts of students from disadvantaged backgrounds, are not left stranded or unfairly compromised in a deregulated market; primarily the need for a Competitive Regions Fund for institutions with higher than average regional/rural student bases, changes to the equity and effectiveness of the Commonwealth Scholarships Scheme, and an adjustment of the interest rate applied to HELP/HECS to be set at 50% of the Long Term Bond Rate, with the students’ interest rate on the loan capped at a maximum of 4%.’

Regional Universities Network

Regional Universities Network: ‘In combination, a reduction in Government funding and real interest rate on loans will have a disproportionate impact on the regional and disadvantaged students who study at RUN universities, as well as the communities they come from. It will be seen as unfair and is likely to exacerbate the divide between the city and rural and regional Australia by ignoring the real structural differences we have in this nation between metropolitan and regional higher education.’

Griffith University

Extract from Griffith University submission: ‘This represents a real reduction in funding for teaching and research on top of other cuts and is opposed. There is a general social consensus supporting a well educated population and the promotion of innovation for Australia’s long term benefit but this is contradicted by cuts to funding for universities.’

National Union of Students

From the National Union of Students submission: ‘While NUS is not opposed to every measure in this Bill we are opposed to its core proposals of tuition fee deregulation, the application of bond market rates of interest to HELP debts and postgraduate research training fees. Due to study debt aversion these measures will undermine access for many potential low SES, rural and mature age students. Graduates will be facing repayments of over $100,000, which some will be repaying over a lifetime. There are also many broader social and economic consequences of these debts that have barely been raised in the public debate so far such as its impact on first home ownership, savings, entrepreneurialism and also the low rates of private return for Australian graduates compared to other OECD countries.’

Indigenous Postgraduate Students

‘Indigenous students will be the most disadvantaged by the changes proposed by the government contained in the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014. If the government is committed to closing the gap and creating parity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians, this bill should never see the light of day. In recent years we have seen Indigenous PhD’s quadruple and it is vital that this trend continues, however under proposed changes to higher education, this is unlikely.

Professor John Quiggin

Extract from submission by Professor John Quiggin (TJRyan Foundation Board Member):

‘1. The current university funding situation is unsatisfactory and inadequate, but is not at a ‘tipping point’ in which radical reform is necessary to stave off collapse. In the short term, restoration of the funding policy prior to the 2013 cuts would be sufficient to stabilize the financial position of the university sector as a whole.

2. Except for the top 1 per cent of the population, US provision of undergraduate education is far worse than in Australia. Moving towards a stratified model on US lines would be a backward step for the vast majority of Australian students.

3. The introduction of for-profit provision and enhanced competition in the higher education sector will lead to worse outcomes for students and the community, including higher costs, reduced diversity and poorer educational outcomes.

4. Structural change in the economy over the past century has required steadily increasing levels of education. The pace of change, and the need for education has accelerated with the rise of the knowledge economy, based on personal computers and the Internet.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation

‘In the opinion of the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation the Bill will have a detrimental impact on students contemplating entering the professions of nursing and midwifery; will reduce the capacity to supply an adequate workforce into the future and consequently reduce the levels of competent care available to our communities.

The proposed changes to tertiary funding courses and student fees will further deregulate the education ‘market‘ promoting the elite, expensive universities at the expense of others with consequent reductions in educational services and standards. This will greatly exacerbate the nursing and midwifery shortages that are set to occur over the next decade.’

University of the Sunshine Coast

University of the Sunshine Coast: ‘The proposed changes will have a greater impact on USC than any other university. USC needs to continue to grow at a rapid rate in order to achieve the critical mass that would allow it to invest in itself and ensure long term sustainability. While aspects of the proposed changes may strengthen USC’s hand, others threaten to dampen student demand, inflict a disproportionate reduction in income and increase USC’s reliance on an under-developed local economy.’

Southern Cross University

‘Southern Cross University (SCU) comes to this debate with a strong focus in supporting students from regional/remote (60% of domestic students), Indigenous (3%), and low socio-economic backgrounds. Around 50% of of our students are 25 years plus, and around 60% study part-time. Sixty-nine percent of our students are the first in their family to go to university. Clearly, as a regional university, we are not only operating in a ‘thin market’, we are also drawing students from regional communities that are often more disadvantaged than many metropolitan areas.’

Professor Bruce Chapman and Dr Timothy Higgins

In their submission Professor Bruce Chapman and Dr Timothy Higgins write: ‘ … under the contemporary HECS situation … we are very concerned about the apparent haste and seeming lack of expert consideration of the many complex and potentially inequitable outcomes implicit in the suggested radical fee deregulation agenda that makes up the Commonwealth’s plans. It would have been, and remains clearly the case, that a more cautious and considered approach is a preferred public policy stance and one that is still feasible.’

James Cook University

James Cook University: ‘Overall, it is unclear how the introduction of market-based fees could impact on James Cook University. Market pressures may mean that some of our locations might not be financially viable despite the great importance of the work we undertake, leading to market failure. The necessity to address any market failure via a support package must be considered.’

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