11 November 2015

What is the future of University fee deregulation under the new Government?

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It had been a thorn in the side of the Abbott Government. An election promise of no changes to education in the lead up to the election win in 2013, rapidly followed by the announcement of massive funding cuts to the State’s education budget in the first Hockey Budget in 2014. The hits kept on coming as then Education Minister Christopher Pyne announced changes to the way University fee’s would be funded, and threatened a 20 per cent cut to the amount of research funding available to Australia’s universities.

With the announcement of Senator Simon Birmingham, the new Minister for Education and Training, on the 23rd of October 2015 of a $1.5 billion package that would guarantee $1,538.9 billion for research programmes funded through the Australian Research Council (ARC) from 2015 to 2019, it appears as though the Turnbull Government’s mantra of innovation and agility is more than just spin.

“High quality research can help save lives, protect the environment, raise living standards for people around the world, create business opportunities and efficiencies, and drive the innovation and creativity needed for the jobs of future.” Minister for Education and Training, Senator. The Hon. Simon Birmingham.

In a speech at the AFR Higher Education Summit, UNSW Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs became the first of the powerful Group of 8 to speak publically against the previously proposed fee deregulation.

Professor Jacobs is quoted as saying the Vice-Chancellors around Australia were faced with “no other choice,” than to support deregulation of fees due to the 20% funding cut threatened in the government’s proposed Higher Education reforms.

In opposing the idea of fee deregulation, Professor Jacobs suggested the move created a debate to fix a problem that doesn’t exist. He suggested that any proposed funding changes, should be made regarding an increase in funding of University based research stating “the real challenge is to disentangle the funding of teaching and learning from the funding of research.”

Senator Birmingham has previously stated in an interview in early October 2015 that “any future reforms, should they be legislated, would not commence until 2017 at the earliest.”


This at least gives both Universities and students some peace of mind when it comes to higher education, and also suggest the Turnbull Government will go to the next election with a much clearer, and more defined Higher Education policy which should prevent the response the previous Government saw in 2014.


Mike Cullen has recently returned to Akolade after a period as the conference producer for one of Australia's leading economic think tanks. Mike began working in the conference industry in 2007 after looking for a career change from the high pressured world of inbound customer service. Mike has worked for some of the most well known conference and media companies in the B2B space and in his spare time is working on his first novel in a planned Epic Fantasy trilogy.

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