Pic source: studyadelaide.com
Opinion on the Abbott-Truss Government’s higher education reforms has gone up a notch as critics anticipate the legislation’s reintroduction to parliament next month.
But as they preach how the uncertainty is affecting students and the sector, they fail to acknowledge that their own Labor-Greens camps have caused the current impasse.
Labor introduced the demand-driven system that this government wants to retain but also ensure its long term sustainability which Senator Carr et al now oppose. Strange, given the double-digit growth in students most universities experienced under the system.
Meantime, the student unions demand education access and opportunity for all students including those disadvantaged. Also odd, given this is precisely what the government’s legislation sets out to do through scholarships, removing the upfront HELP fee, and extending government support to sub-bachelor courses and private providers that will provide pathways into higher education.
The expansion of the demand driven system under the reforms will benefit over 80,000 students a year by 2018….the student unions clearly haven’t done their homework. Nor has Senator Carr in his criticism of speculated university drop outs as a result of low ATAR acceptances. The pathways under the Coalition’s reforms will help prepare low ATAR score and other students gain a higher education qualification, so why oppose it?
Despite the scaremongering, there hasn’t been a dramatic drop off in student university enrolments this year so far. In fact, government data shows university applications are at similar levels to last year, with some unis reporting a rise.
Many students appear to trust universities to be reasonable on future course pricing. And they should with the sector issuing public statements and modelling confirming it. Similar assurances were made at the senate inquiry into the reforms that I chaired. Nor does it make any business sense to do the contrary and lose students – these are smart people running the sector.
Reform is never going to be easy. The government introduced changes after discussions with the sector and senators interested in representing students not party politics. Even former Labor MP, Maxine McKew, now Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne's Graduate School of Education, called on Labor to end the impasse while other members privately agree.
The higher education sector supports the reforms and all want an end to the uncertainty. It’s unlikely the Greens will agree to a sensible compromise – it’s time Labor did.
Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie
Chair, Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee