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Legislation Opens the Door to Equity and Opportunity

The Council of Private Higher Education (COPHE) welcomes Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 which has passed the House of Representatives and is now being prepared to face a hostile Senate.

“The changes will greatly assist students enrolling with non-university institutions and introduce some equity into the higher education system for them,” said COPHE CEO Adrian McComb. ”Overall, the package promotes reforms that are crucial if Australia is to have a high performing higher education sector that can compete globally.”

“The removal of the inequitable 25 per cent student loan fee,  levied only on non-public university undergraduates,  goes a long way to increasing equity and opportunity in the sector, as does the expansion of funding support for sub-degree places,” he said.

“Whilst it is hard to predict how universities will structure their pricing under the reforms, there are early indications that prove that claims of “mortgage-sized degrees” have been scaremongering at its worst,” Mr McComb said. “The vast majority of degrees offered by COPHE member institutions are likely to fall in the range of $30-65,000.”

“Whatever universities choose to do, opportunities will still be there for all students, because Australia’s brilliant yet under-appreciated HELP scheme still means students will not have to start to repay their loans until they are earning over $50,638,” he said.

Extending Commonwealth Supported Places beyond public universities was originally recommended by the Bradley Review of Higher Education in 2008. Emeritus Professor Denise Bradley AC stated over six years ago that the distinction between public and private was obsolete.

“Quality in all higher education institutions is assured by TEQSA (the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency) so this removes any quality concerns through the introduction of more competition in the sector,” Mr McComb said.

Non-university institutions tend to be teaching-focused and concentrate on a few disciplines where they can deliver a good student experience and outcomes, with the quality assurance of the Higher Education Standards and TEQSA regulation.

Non-university Higher Education providers now enroll over one in 10 students which is three times what it was in 2000 despite the pricing inequities that have existed.

“These reforms will give more students the opportunity to look beyond universities to smaller, more specialised and flexible providers who offer excellent industry links and graduate outcomes,” Mr McComb said.

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