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What’s Next for Reforms – COPHE CEO

Edited – article in full published in The Australian:

Education reform: Pyne’s remark stirs talk on fee deregulation Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeated that fee deregulation is the centrepiece of the reforms and his office yesterday reaffirmed support for fee deregulation despite his comments last week about “piecemeal” higher education change. But the reality is fee deregulation remains the key block in the Senate.

 Yesterday Adrian McComb, chief executive of the Council of Private Higher Education, echoed the comments of the Group of Eight that as far as the Senate was concerned, “fee deregulation is dead in the water”. But crucial independent senators who voted against the legislation, do back elements of the government’s expansion agenda and proposals to treat private providers’ student equally, such as by scrapping the 25 per cent fee they have to pay on top of their FEE-HELP loans.

 Speaking to the HES, ­Mr Pyne highlighted the problem: “Some of the crossbenchers don’t want to let private providers into the system. Others think that is the absolute neces­sity. So which bits are the ones that would survive on their own? That is a moot point and one which I haven’t given a great deal of attention to yet.

 “I’m going through a process of talking to them individually about what they think would be a reasonable reform that might pass and I intend to present that in the (current) spring session.”

 The debate over what could be in or out sets up a fight between the public and private sectors. Mr McComb said there was support among crossbenchers for making the system fairer for private students by scrapping the 25 per cent loan fee on FEE-HELP loans that public students don’t have to pay, and extending course subsidies to such students.

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 see also Article published in Campus Review, September 9. - Edited highlights:

 Next government must secure higher-ed future

 Regardless of which party takes the next election, the next government will face the challenge of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the higher education sector, a senior departmental official has warned.

Speaking as part of a policy debate at the Futureproof Now conference, hosted in Sydney on Wednesday by Campus Review, the acting deputy secretary for higher education, research and international at the Department of Education and Training, Jessie Borthwick, said the growing demand for higher education has made sustainability a key issue.

Earlier in the discussion, Grattan Institute higher education program director Andrew Norton had suggested that a hostile Senate made it highly unlikely that the government’s plans would be passed in any form. He had also said earlier in the day, that with the re-election of a Labor government next year now a strong possibility, the reinstatement of Kim Carr as education minister could mean alternative reforms, such as measures to reduce the enrolment by universities of lower ATAR students or changes to the demand-driven system.

However, the chief executive of the Council of Private Higher Education, Adrian McComb, said he remained hopeful that at least some of the reforms could be passed for the benefit of non-university education providers. McComb said the majority of cross-bench senators seemingly agreed with the need to better support TAFEs and private providers and he believed some progress could still be made prior to next year’s anticipated federal election.

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