And other bed words by
f you’re a former, current, or prospective university student and you haven’t heard the term ‘fee deregulation’ twice a week for the last five months, then you’re doing a very good job of locating food at the bottom of the well you’ve been living in. Fee deregulation. These two words have dominated the tertiary education sector since the Federal Budget was released in May, and are likely to continue doing so for some time. The face of higher education as we know it may change drastically in the not too distant future, but what will it look like? The reaction to the government’s federal budget in May was mixed to say the least. Many were shocked at the harsh cuts, whilst others heralded the tough measures as the medicine Australia is well overdue. Among the proposed changes were several radical reforms to the higher education sector, and Education Minister Christopher Pyne is working hard to get these proposals turned into law with his Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014, which passed the House of Representatives on September 4th.
The bill would remove the maximum student contribution cap for commonwealth-supported students (fee deregulation, in other words, as universities will be able to charge what they want); cut government subsidies by 20 per cent; and increase the indexation of student loans up to a cap of six per cent per year.
slow race to the top of the world university rankings. The Shanghai Ranking Consultancy, affiliated with Shanghai Jiao Tong University, is widely viewed as the best university ranking system, and is usually referenced when discussing Australian universities’ position in the global education market.
Pyne claims that without these measures, Australian universities will ‘be overtaken by our Asian competitors.’ He told Parliament that ‘universities in China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore are rising strongly through the ranks.’
‘The situation in Australia is such that we cannot have no reform to our universities or they will slide into mediocrity, be overtaken by our Asian competitors,’ Pyne told Network Ten’s The Bolt Report on August 24th.
In the most recent 2014 rankings, Australia had four universities in the top 100, and this has remained relatively constant since 2011. This is a slight improvement on the situation in 2004, when Australia only had two universities in the top 100. Meanwhile, there are still no Chinese or Singaporean universities in the top 100, although they have experienced some growth in the top 500.
At first glance this all looks pretty terrible: students paying more for their degrees, universities receiving less funding. What’s the upside here? Why would anyone think this is a good thing?
‘Our international education market will dry up. Our university students will go overseas thinking that they have first-class degrees only to find they come eighth out of eight in every race.’ The race Pyne is referring to is the
A Group of Eight report attributes the growth of these Asian universities to the ‘substantial increases’ in government investment in higher education and university research.
Last Edition of 2014! INSIDE: Coming out, Native Land Title, bar map, Feminism.