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In the Media: Group of Eight warns students risk paying ‘much more for less’

The Australian, 14 June 2017

By Julie Hare

The Group of Eight has renewed its call for an independent higher education commission to oversee higher education policy, ­arguing the current process lacks clarity, coherence and long-term vision.

In its submission to the ­Senate education and employment committee inquiry into higher education reforms, the Group of Eight has also called on the committee to “recommend to the Senate that it reject the bill without amendment”.

The Go8 says the reforms will result in “significant impact on students and universities” and estimates the real financial ­impact of the 2.8 per cent ­efficiency dividend to be more of the order of 10 per cent over the forward estimates.

It also estimates that the ­direct cost to students will be up to $804 a year while the government’s contribution will be cut by up to $1701, with providers ­receiving up to $1015 less per ­student.

“The underlying point is that students will be paying more for much less. The misnomer ­‘efficiency dividend’ disguises the fact that the CGS is being cut by 10 per cent and that this cost is largely being shifted on to ­students, who will receive no ­direct benefit from the changes,” the Go8 said.

The government has repeatedly claimed universities will benefit from a 23 per cent funding increase over the four years to 2021 and that funding to the sector had “grown at twice the rate of the economy since 2009”.

It has described its reforms as “modest changes that are fair to students, taxpayers and universities”.

However, the Go8 submission challenges the 23 per cent funding increase.

“Most of the increase in funding is due to the 53 per cent increase in student fees deferred by HELP loans. While the exact assumptions underpinning these figures were not published, 2017 budget projects indicate an expected increase in over 100,000 HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP places between 2017-18 and 2020-21,” the submission says.

The Go8 says an independent commission for higher education to provide ongoing expert advice to government would help break the cycle of short-termism “and broad policy ­incoherence at the heart of legislation, which lead us to believe there is a necessity for a standing higher education committee to provider policy advice to government”.

A spokesman for Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the reforms were developed following 1200 submissions to its discussion paper.

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