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Not Gr8 M8: Go8

29 August 2016

In the last budget, the Turnbull Coalition introduced a plan to partially deregulate university courses. This would involve introducing uncapped course fees for a number of degrees offered in universities around Australia.

These ‘flagship courses’, proposed in the Government’s Driving Innovation, Fairness and Excellence in Australian Higher Education paper, could make up 20 per cent of total university courses and their cost would be uncapped. This means that a university could charge as much as they like for these flagship courses. The government plans to begin uncapping fees from 2018.

Universities Australia has cited a concern that deregulated flagship courses will create a system where disadvantaged students are locked out.

Additionally, many universities have expressed concern that flagship courses would impact poorly on students from lower socio economic backgrounds, Indigenous backgrounds and rural areas.

Sue Elliot, Deputy Provost of the University of Melbourne, said, “Perceptions in the community reveal the high value placed on a university education but not the corresponding desire to pay higher taxes for this education.”

“In short, the voting public and the Government do not prioritise funding of universities”.

However, Elliot has expressed that “The University of Melbourne remains open to exploring options such as partial deregulation but without further detail on this proposal, is unable to comment further on its implications for universities and students.”

UMSU Education (Public) Officers, Akira Boardman and Dominic Cernaz, have said “UMSU Education remains against deregulation, whatever the form.”

“UMSU as a student union believes in universal tertiary education, as education is a right that should be accessible to everybody.”

When asked about concerns regarding the creation of a two- tiered system, UMSU Education expressed concerns about equity, “Some courses will have fees dramatically increase, so obviously, some students who feel they won’t be able to afford the high costs won’t enrol. This will contribute to a growing class division in Australia”.

“What’s important to also consider is how partial deregulation would fit within broader changes. For example, if the lowering of the HECS repayment threshold is adopted alongside partial deregulation and other concerning measures it would contribute to the growing feeling that university is only accessible to the rich”.


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