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Drive for Equity in HE Must Continue

The Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) has applauded the Federal Government’s continued pursuit of higher education reforms despite the second rejection of the Bill in the Senate.

COPHE CEO Adrian McComb said although the defeat of the bill was disappointing, it is clear from Education Minister Christopher Pyne that it is not all over.

“For the sake of all Australian students, the process of reform must continue. Reform is vital to ensuring Australia’s higher education system is well placed to face the avalanche of change facing the sector globally,” he said. “Maintaining the status quo takes us nowhere and frankly no one opposed has proposed any workable alternative.”

The reforms announced in the Budget last year promised equitable treatment of students in the private sector. Under the current arrangements, students at private institutions are penalised.

“We applaud Minister Pyne for his tenacity in declaring he will continue to pursue the reforms. The sector needs to overcome the misleading scare campaign around $100,000 degrees,” Mr McComb said. “And as we noted in our Senate submissions, the CEOs of our member institutions have indicated that they would pass on Commonwealth support received to their students. That and the removal of the 25% loan administration fee would make a big difference to student debt.  Studying at private higher education providers leaves students with debts that are 2-3 times as much as their peers enrolled at public universities.”

“Capping prices without any means of capping costs can only mean university quality will decline. Deregulation can deliver a top quality, resilient higher education system which better meets the needs of students,” he said. “An independent oversight body can curb excesses.”

The independent and minor party Senators that make up the cross benches have expressed continuing concerns in a deregulated environment about the possibility of universities charging excessive student fees to cross-subsidise activity that is unrelated to teaching. In recent times policy approaches that would mitigate this have emerged and need to be considered in the revised legislation.

Senators have expressed concern about the process followed in introducing the reforms. We believe that a deregulated environment in the sector was always going to be difficult to pull off and 20/20 hindsight is easy.

It is also disheartening to see that measures that would help the disadvantaged have also been set back such as the higher education initiative that would have provided 80,000 CGS funded places for sub-degrees and pathways diplomas. There is research evidence that students with poorer school results, who would struggle in their first year of a bachelor degree, can still achieve progression on par with students with much higher ATARS, if they have access to such pathways diplomas into the second year of bachelor degrees.

“There is too much at stake for this to be the end of any chance of change,” Mr McComb said.

Media inquiries: Adrian McComb (02) 8021 0841 or 0417208727 

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