Sky News, 31 March 2015
Video link: http://www.skynews.com.au/news/top-stories/2015/03/31/universities-call-for-re-think-of-reforms.html
Australian universities are calling for a re-think on the government’s proposed changes to the higher education.
The Group of Eight leading universities have raised their concerns the watered down university fee deregulation package will not keep the sector sustainable.
Chief Executive Vicki Thomson has told Sky News the Group of Eight continues to support the government’s deregulation agenda but understands the reality that the Senate will not accept it.
‘We do support deregulation, and we have supported that for the last three years and we continue to support that,’ Ms Thomson told Sky News.
‘The fact is though, that package has been rejected by the Senate and we think it is highly unlikely that it will be accepted, in its current form, by the Senate next time round.’
Ms Thomson said Group of Eight were concerned in order to get the package through the Senate it will be ‘so heavily compromised’ it would lose the core of its reforms.
She said any possible deal with the crossbench may lead to a short-term solution but would fail to solve the long-term funding problem.
‘We don’t want a compromise package to get through the Senate,’ Ms Thomson told Chief Political Reporter Kieran Gilbert.
The debate over the reforms has been sparked by News Limited reports that the Group of Eight had withdrawn support for the government’s watered down reforms.
‘We are not turning on the government’s reforms,’ Ms Thomson told Sky News.
‘What we are saying is any change in that reform package which will lead to compromises, which won’t address the problem is not something the Group of Eight will support.’
Ms Thomson says the best option going forward, remains the original proposal offered by the Coalition.
The powerful Group of Eight has called for reform to be ‘de-politicised’ – calling for the government full scope of university funding to be considered.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne rejected the proposal arguing the sector has already faced 33 reviews since 1950.
Ms Thompson acknowledged that higher education was already one of Australia’s most reviewed sectors and that ‘any such review would need to offer something more than those that came before it.’
‘Another review is not a substitute for action,’ Mr Pyne tweeted on Tuesday.
The reforms could head back to the Senate for a third time during the winter sitting period, after being rejected twice by the upper house.