Minister flags shake-up
The scrapping of Labor’s targets to lift participation in higher education by disadvantaged students is among the reforms to the sector planned by the new Government.
to higher education
Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne also has in his sights compulsory fees collected by universities to support student services, although Prime Minister, Tony Abbott said later there were no plans to axe them and the issue was not a priority.
In addition, Mr Pyne has suggested he might reintroduce caps on university places as a way to avoid loss of quality that would ''poison'' the sector's international reputation.
Regional universities and the National Union of Students strongly oppose the flagged changes, arguing they could lead to a loss of services on campus and limit access for poorer students.
In an interview with Fairfax Media, Mr Pyne said a review of the demand-driven system was one of his top three priorities for the higher education portfolio.
He said he would review the system to see if it is impacting on quality.
''It's a very important reputation to maintain and the poison that would undermine that reputation would be a diminution in quality,'' Mr Pyne said.
''Quality is our watchword and we aren't bound by the previous Government's policy decisions.''
Mr Pyne said the student services and amenities fee introduced by Labor was compulsory student unionism by the back door and the Coalition would abolish it.
He said his other priorities were to restore the strength of Australia's international education market and cut tertiary sector red tape.
Mr Pyne said the Government would make sensible, methodical reforms to maintain the number of students going to university and encourage those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
However, he said the Government would axe Labor's target to increase participation by those from low socio-economic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020, and to have 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds holding a bachelor degree or higher by 2025.
“I do not believe in targets for targets' sake," Mr Pyne said.
He confirmed the Coalition would introduce legislation to implement more than $2 billion in savings to university funding and student support, previously announced by the Labor Government.
Executive Director of the Regional Universities Network, Caroline Perkins said the student services and amenities fee was vital for the provision of services on campuses which might be a significant distance from a town centre.
''It's very important for us to get that support so we can provide students with the services they need,'' Ms Perkins said.
Edition 381, 1 October 2013 2013