The National Tertiary Education Union released the statement below today.
The Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, has today introduced legislation that if passed would see the most radical changes to the way Australian higher education is regulated and funded in over a generation.
Mr Pyne claims that his Bill will give Australian universities the chance to be the best in the world. However his so called reforms are all about cutting government’s funding commitment to public universities and subsidizing private providers and leaving students with massive debts.
This legislation will cut government funding to universities by 20% and allow them to charge whatever they think students will be prepared to pay. This will lead to a minimum 30% increase in fees paid by all students, while the cost of some university degrees will exceed $100,000.
“Pyne's package will be bad for students and many of our universities and communities. It should be rejected outright,” said Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President.
“The cost of servicing student debt will also skyrocket. Students on low incomes and women will be most disadvantaged by this grossly unfair measure,” explained Rea.
“As leaked analysis shows, Australia’s most prestigious universities are likely to be the big winners while outer metropolitan and regional universities will struggle to break even.
“The idea that we would have a group of elite universities charging high fees to a select group of students is far from a public university system where access is based on a student’s academic ability not their capacity pay.
“Making public funding available to for-profit private providers who can cherry pick popular courses, can undermine the financial viability of public university programs. These are courses that many universities rely on to cross subsidise the cost of research and community obligations.
“While Minister Pyne has indicated he is prepared to negotiate, it is curious that staff and student representatives were not invited to his secret briefing this morning. Clearly he only wants to hear from those who agree with him.
“Attempts to blackmail universities by threatening their research funding have exposed that the Abbott Government is not really interested in ‘reforming’ higher education, but is prepared to jeopardise Australia’s future chasing their obsession with Budget savings.
“Mr Pyne claims that he wants to ensure that the Australian higher education system “does not stand still” - yet it will go backwards if this Bill is passed,” Rea concluded.