Reform bid needs reset: UQ

1 Apr 2015

The Courier Mail, 01 Apr 2015

By Jessica Marszalek

Uni students the real victims of Senate wrangling

THE crossbench senators blocking university reform will actually harm students, who will get less for their dollar at research institutions such as the University of Queensland, its vice-chancellor says.

As the impasse between the Federal Government and crossbenchers continues over university deregulation, professor Peter Hoj warned that students at Australia's top universities would end up funding research from money meant for their education unless a compromise could be found.

The powerful Group of Eight (GO8), which represents Australia's top universities, has withdrawn its support from negotiations between Education Minister Christopher Pyne and Senate crossbenchers, recognising that legislation has already been blocked twice and will not pass.

A GO8 member, Prof Hoj said a three-month review should now "press the reset" and come up with a new plan to allow universities to set their own fees and address a lack of research funding. Prof Hoj said while he supported the Abbott Government's deregulation plan, it was a "sub-optimal" policy because it did not take into account research funding.

The vice-chancellor said about 60 per cent of Australia's research happened at universities and about 10 per cent of that research happened at UQ.

"But research is underfunded, so if you're not very careful then you are asking students at University of Queensland to cross-subsidise research that is carried out, not for University of Queensland, but for Australia," he said.

Two students doing the same degree one at UQ and one at a university that did not undertake research receive the same government funding.

That meant that if research ate into the UQ student's funds, they could end up disadvantaged, Prof Hoj said. "Is it reasonable that they . pay for a research effort that is done on behalf of Australia simply because they happen to go to one of the universities who have the capability to do that?

"We think Australia should underwrite the research, not our students," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said it would be best if the Senate crossbench engaged with the GO8 and the Government on a compromise.

Source: The Courier Mail