Fees

TAFE Directors Australia – Newsletter Newsletter 28 September 2015

TDA Logo snipped

In this edition


Commonwealth takeover of VET would hurt TAFE, federal opposition says

The federal government’s proposal for a Commonwealth takeover of vocational education and training would mean cuts to the TAFE sector, the federal opposition has claimed.

Shadow Minister for Vocational Education Sharon Bird said that “TAFE will be a thing of the past if Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for a Liberal takeover is allowed to happen.”

The Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, presented the federal government’s case for a takeover in his address to the TDA national conference in Hobart earlier this month.

The Victorian and West Australian premiers are working on a proposal for a Commonwealth takeover of VET to be presented to COAG before the end of the year.

However, the Tasmanian Premier, Will Hodgman, has strongly ruled out such a move.

“As the minister said last week and as I say now, we do not support a national takeover of that system,” Mr Hodgman said.


Tasmania to invest in skills for seasonal industries

The Tasmanian government is to spend $1.2 million in a new training program to upskill some 1,300 workers in seasonal industries, including food, tourism and hospitality.

The Skills Fund – Seasonal Industries program provides funding to bodies including registered training organisations (RTOs) to prepare workers and communities for seasonal fluctuations.

The Minister for State Growth, Matthew Groom, said about half of the training will take place in the food production/seasonal agriculture sector, about 35% in hospitality and 17% in tourism.

“This funding demonstrates the Government’s commitment to supporting these vital industries and our regional communities,” he said.


Canberra Institute to deliver technology courses in India

Canberra Institute of Technology (CIT) is to sign a memorandum of understanding with India as part of a push by the ACT government to promote vocational education on the sub-continent.

The ACT Minister for Education and Training Joy Burch has embarked on a tour of India’s education regions to promote the territory’s capability in vocational training and strengthen education ties.

Ms Burch, along with CIT’s Chief Executive Officer Leanne Cover, will meet with major technology company NeST IT, Indian education ministers and training institutions in the Indian education regions of Kerala and Gujarat over a week to discuss training opportunities.

CIT will sign an MOU to develop training into schools and to the adult population in the areas of spatial information and surveying, and forensic science.

“CIT has a wealth of international experience in delivering training in these specialised areas of technology, and these agreements will help meet the training needs of India’s developing economy and be the beginning of a mutually beneficial international partnership,” Ms Burch said.


Students planning class action against Evocca College

One of the largest private training providers Evocca College, is facing a potential class action from hundreds of former students, according to a report by ABC’s consumer affairs unit.

Solicitor Benjamin Kramer said he is preparing to file documents on behalf of former Evocca College students.

He will allege the company breached consumer law by providing sub-standard courses and using unfair marketing tactics to sign up students.

“I’ve been blown away by how many people have been forthcoming with their own experiences and their own claims of how they’ve felt they’ve been wronged by the school,” he told the ABC.

Evocca College chief executive Craig White said the company was surprised to hear of the potential court action and completely rejects the allegations.

“It is not supported by any demand that has been issued to or received by Evocca,” he told the ABC.

See more.


Book now for Australian Training Awards

The Australian Training Awards presentation dinner will be held at Princes Wharf No. 1, Hobart, Tasmania on Thursday 19 November.

Tickets can be booked by visiting The Event page of the Australian Training Awards website.

Since 1994, the Australian Training Awards have been the peak, national awards for the vocational education and training sector, recognising individuals, businesses and registered training organisations for their contribution to skilling Australia.

For more information, visit www.australiantrainingawards.gov.au or phone 02 6240 8155.


TAFE teachers battle out prestigious language, literacy and numeracy award

One of the highlights of the upcoming Australian Training Awards (see article above) will be the ‘Excellence in Language, Literacy and Numeracy Practice Award’ where all the finalists are from TAFE. The finalists are:

Lyn Wilson (NSW) – for over 20 years, Lyn has managed the Sydney TAFE – Petersham College Foundation Studies section, historically one of the largest adult basic education units within TAFE NSW. The section is known for its outstanding links with industry and its successful delivery of foundation skills and pre-employment programs.

Leanne Hanson (Queensland) – a language, literacy and numeracy teacher at TAFE Queensland Gold Coast since 2013.Leanne has taught Skills for Education and Employment to primarily disengaged youth through a uniquely inclusive system of learning that has led to a 300% increase in students completing the program.

Liz Birch (Queensland) – has been a language, literacy and numeracy teacher for over 24 years. In the past 15 years with TAFE Queensland Brisbane, Liz has dedicated her working life to assisting migrants successfully overcome cultural and linguistic barriers to integrate into the workforce. Her successful Work Experience Log Book initiative is now being used as a model resource across TAFE Queensland.


TAFE study tour to Singapore and South Korea

TAFEs are invited to take part in a four-day study tour of Singapore and South Korea that will build links between TAFE and industry.

It follows the inaugural 2015 TAFE Study Tour to Asia, which culminated in the report, ‘Vocational training for the Global Economy’, produced by consultants Dandolo Partners, and released at the TDA national conference.

Due to significant interest, the decision has been taken to conduct a similar, but expanded, study tour in 2016, from April 3 – 4.

TDA has provided its support for the initiative, recognising that it will assist in driving deeper linkages between TAFEs and industry. The tour will again be sponsored by SingTel Optus and Cisco.

See more.


Australia-Pacific Technical College seeking country manager for Papua New Guinea

The Australia-Pacific Technical College (APTC) is seeking a candidate to fill the role of country manager in Papua New Guinea.

The appointment is for a three year term commencing in December. Applications close Friday, 9 October.

See more information about the position or contact Marian Wilkinson, Executive Director – Training Development via marian.wilkinson@aptc.edu.au or phone +679 702 1650.



Diary Dates

NESA National Conference
The Spirit of Collaboration

DATE: 27-29 September 2015
LOCATION: The Marriott Resort Surfers Paradise
DETAILS: More information.

Australian International Education Conference 2015
International education: global, responsible, sustainable

DATE: 6 – 9 October 2015
LOCATION: Adelaide Convention Centre
DETAILS: More information.

Australia India Business Council Queensland Chapter
The Annual Australia India Address 2015-09-18

DATE: 8 October 2015
LOCATION: Stamford Plaza, Brisbane
DETAILS: More information.

2015 Australasian Genomic Technologies Association (AGTA) Conference
DATE: 11 – 14 October 2015
LOCATION: Crowne Plaza Hunter Valley, NSW.
DETAILS: More information.

OCTOBERVET
Webinar – Practitioner research: why it is useful in VET and how it is used and analysed

DATE: 26 October 2015
DETAILS: More information.

2015 AUSTAFE National Conference
Bringing TAFE and VET to the Nation’s Capital

DATE: 28 – 30 October 2015
LOCATION: Canberra
DETAILS: Contact National President Jerome.DeRose@cit.edu.au

2015 Australian Training Awards
DATE: 19 November 2015
LOCATION: Hobart
DETAILS: www.australiantrainingawards.gov.au

HERDSA (Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia)
The Shape of Higher Education

DATE: 4-7 July 2016
LOCATION: Fremantle
DETAILS: More information

The Scan's top ten reads – October 2014

31 October 2014

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In October The Scan published 47 posts, considerably less than usual, and only published 2 editions, rather than the 4-5 in a usual month.  Early in October, we suffered what seemed to be a catastrophic ICT event , which turned out merely to be a bit of a disaster but limited activity (nothing to do with viruses and worms!).  As noted last month  Scan readers seem to be drawn to a whiff of controversy and the runaway controversy in October was the regulatory travails of the ASX-listed training provider Vocation (and which seem to have some way to run yet). University fee deregulation featured highly, with advocates and opponents lobbying hard through the month,  ahead of a Senate committee report on the legislation and anticipated debate in the Senate (yet to happen).  The arithmetic of the Senate seemingly dooms the package, with Labor, Greens and PUP opposed – but who knows.  The Palmer team has shown a certain flexibilty, quite conducive to backflipping.  A surpise top post concerned James Baraz’s mother, which was originally posted in November 2012 and in October enjoyed more views than in the preceding 2 years

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Vocation takes $ hit on VET non-compliance issues

Vocation27 October 2014      |     The ASX-listed training provider Vocation has announced a settlement with the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development (DEECD) in relation to its review into two of Vocation’s Registered Training Organisations (RTOs), BAWM and Aspin. Vocation has agreed to surrender $19.6 million in Government funding to BAWM and Aspin but will receive $9 million in withheld Government funding to its two other Victorian RTOs. Vocation will also undertake a series of measures to ensure continuous improvement in line with the VRQA Guidelines for VET and AQTF Continuing Standards for Registration. Vocation’s previously announced Quality Advisory Committee, headed by former ACPET chief Claire Field, will have full oversight of future continuous improvement activities within its Victorian businesses….[ MORE ]…..

NMIT rebranded as Melbourne PolytechnicMelb Poly logo

3 October 2014    |      The financially troubled Northern Melbourne Institute of TAFE, which lost almost $32 million in 2013, has received a $19 million grant from the state government and rebranded itself Melbourne Polytechnic. It is the last of the big Victorian TAFEs to ditch the TAFE brand, with most of the TAFEs now styled as “institutes” and the four Victorian dual sector universities having exited the the state TAFE system in January. Interim CEO Ron Gauci says the name change is a strategy to reach out to Europe and Asia, rather than a rejection of the TAFE title. While the federal government’s planned deregulation of higher education would largely level the playing field in degree-level education, the institute’s name change would be beneficial…..[ MORE ]…..

New VET regulatory standards signed off

VET Reform23 October 2014    |     Ministers at the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Industry and Skills Council on 26 September 2014 agreed to new regulatory Standards for training providers and regulators.  Industry minister Ian Macfarlane signed off on the new standards on 20 October.  The government says the new Standards represent another important step towards an effective risk-based regulatory system and introduce important changes that strengthen industry engagement, improve the quality of training and reduce the regulatory burden on training providers……[ MORE ]…..

V-C salaries 2013

30 September 2014     |    Analysis of vice-chancellor remuneration packages released by the NTEU shows that there were five universities where the total remuneration package was in excess of $1m. The analysis was compiled using data from universities’ 2013 annual reports.   The largest package was almost $1.1m for the Australian Catholic University (ACU) vice-chancellor, and the smallest was $445,000 for Edith Cowan University. The average cost across all public universities was $770,000…..[ MORE ]……

vc pay

 

Sector submissions to Senate inquiry

Submissions125 September 2014    |     The government’s higher education reform package – the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 – was referred on 3 September to the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee for consideration and report by 28 October. Submissions to the inquiry closed on 22 September. The committee has published 79 submissions on its website. Following are extracts from 27 submissions lodged by higher education organisations (peak bodies) and individual institutions. There is almost unanimous support for passage of the package, particularly fee deregulation, on the basis that the long run decline in public funding is damaging the sector. Several submissions express opposition or concern about the extension of public subsidies to private providers (ACU stridently so). There is a united view that the package needs to be amended, particularly to at least ameliorate the burden of debt on future generations of students, that would follow from the combination of substantial fee increases and the imposition of a real interest rate on student loans (although no unanimity on how that might be achieved). Deakin University says the proposed changes to the HECS repayment scheme are unfair and rejects any compromise on this issue. The Regional Universities Network and the Group of Eight have formed a unity ticket on additional support for regional universities and their students. Stephen Parker (vice-chancellor, University of Canberra) and the National Tertiary Education Union make strange bedfellows in urging rejection of the package in its entirety. The submissions can be viewed in full at the Senate website.   For background on the debate around fee deregulation, check The Scan archive – it’s extensive…..[ MORE ]……

Field to lead on Vocation complianceClaire Field

17 October 2014   |    Coming on the back of regulatory issues in Victoria, the ASX-listed education provider Vocation has appointed former ACPET chief Claire Field to head an independent committee to provide oversight over the company’s compliance with regulatory standards.  The new oversight committee will “provide guidance and advice on quality and compliance to Vocation’s registered training organisations and higher education providers.   Field said the body would be “a model for governance”, and will be joined on the committee by Neil Edwards and Ann Doolette, both with substantial experience in the sector……[ MORE ]……

Victorian training system failing – needs urgent rethink 

Budget 201329 September 2014    |     Enrolments in the service industry training in Victoria have fallen significantly over the last 18 months, according to new research conducted by Victoria and Federation Universities on behalf of Service Skills Victoria. The drop in enrolments is due to changes made to the funding of training in the service industries by the Victorian State Government.   New subsidy rates were introduced in the 2012 State Budget for all new enrolments from January 2012 and for all existing students from January 2013. Further adjustments to the rates were made later in 2013 and in 2014.   A significant proportion – about 70% –   are in the two lowest funding bands at just $4.50 per hour or less of service industry qualifications, including hospitality and retail training…….[ MORE ]……

Murdoch v-c quitsRichard Higgott

27 October 2014    |     Murdoch University vice-chancellor Richard Higgott, under investigation by WA’s anti-corruption watchdog, has resigned from the position.  Higgott was last month suspended on full pay after he was reported to the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC) by the university.  It did not detail the nature of  Higgott’s alleged misdemeanours.  The CCC said at the time it had been monitoring a university investigation into the academic’s conduct and had received a provisional report from Murdoch detailing new allegations.  Murdoch Chancellor David Flanagan said the Senate had accepted Higgott’s resignation.  The Australian reports that in June an anonymous group of staff, calling itself the “Murdoch Meta Management Group”, sent a scathing letter to Flanagan which included allegations about Higgott’s credit card use, the way he dealt with his colleagues and the financial and academic performance of the university.  The group said its members believed the university was in “crisis”, describing Higgott and provost Ann Capling as “arrogant, poor listeners who had systematically destroyed the collegiate culture of the university”…….[ MORE ]……

How Jame Baraz ruined his mother’s life

17 November 2012

James Baraz’s 91 and 1/2 years old Jewish mother spills the beans and demonstrates how to tell a story. You need to stick with it but the punchline is worth it.

Swinburne reconsidering VET provision

swinburne-logo22 September 2014    |      Dual sector Swinburne University is flagging a major restructure of its vocational training after falling short of revenue targets on the back of state government funding cuts and increasing competition from private providers.  In a consultation paper issued to staff, Swinburne said revenue from vocational education and training had slumped from $123.5 million in 2012 to a now projected $70m this year. But it said its current organisational structure was predicated on the university generating at least $90m a year from VET, and alternative options now need to be considered……..[ MORE ]……

 

Labor's calculator of doom

The Australian      |      31 October 2014

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 As part of its growing campaign against the Abbott government’s deregulation of university fees, Labor has launched its own “calculator of doom” which shows that in a “best case” scenario in which universities simply raise fees to cover proposed funding cuts, female nurses and teachers could face cost increases of about 60% once interest repayments are included.

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Fee increaseUnder the best case scenario, a female nurse would end up repaying $32,245 for her three-year degree over nine years, up 66% from $19,410 under current arrangements. If prices rose to international student levels she would eventually repay $56,643 over almost 15 years.

A male business student under the best case scenario would see their total repayments rise just 27% for a three-year degree to $43,656 that would take 8 years to repay. But if fees rose to international market levels, his repayments would rise to $94,473 and take almost 13 years to repay.

Under a “worst case” scenario, if prices were to rise to international student levels, the total cost, including interest, of a three year business degree, based on a graduate’s median earnings, would rise to over $94,000, and the cost of a four year law degree would rise to over $125,000. A female veterinarian under the worst case scenario would never repay her debt by the time she retired at age 65 having repaid a whopping $437,310, almost all of that being interest charges.

The calculator is based on modelling commissioned by Labor from the University of Canberra’s National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling.

Education minister Christopher Pyne said the modelling has “no credibility” noting that NATSEM was housed at the University of Canberra whose vice- chancellor Stephen Parker has been outspoken in his total opposition to fee deregulation.

NATSEM principal research fellow Ben Phillips said the research had been entirely independent. He said the modelling assessed plausible scenarios but that it was impossible to predict what would actually happen to prices. “These are possibilities. How realistic they are I can’t say,”

Andrew Norton of the Grattan Institute was reluctant to dismiss the modelling.

The calculator is clearly political but the assumptions aren’t outrageously wrong, they just aren’t necessarily right.

And that’s the point: unless and until a deal is done on the package – and universities have set their fee regimes – we just don’t know what loan debt future generations of students will be carrying.

Universities have argued, for example, for  a  lesser cut to university funding than the 20% currently proposed and for a FEE-HELP interest rate  pegged to CPI rather than the bond rate.   It’s also being argued that the proposed extension of public subsidies to non-university higher education providers be deferred for up to three years.

The Greens launched its own calculator in June.

 

University fee deregulation bill

30 October 2014

Sector responses

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It’s hardly news that all the university groups are as one that there is no alternative to fee deregulation to provide the funding to maintain the quality of Australian higher education (given declining public funding).  They are not as one on how the proposed Commonwealth Scholarship scheme funding  (provided by students) should be divvied up: the Group of 8 and ATN argue the money should be held and disbursed by the collecting institution, the  RUN and IRU argue that it should be pooled and disbursed on a needs basis.

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Universities Australia

Drawing on a survey which shows 56% of Australians support the deregulation of university fees if the Senate makes ua logochanges to secure fairness for students, families and taxpayers, Universities Australia. UA proposes three key changes to the package:
• reduce the magnitude of the 20 per cent cut in the government contribution to relieve upward pressure on fee price;
• maintain the CPI interest rate on student loans; and
• provide for an adjustment package to assist with the transition to a market-based system.

Chief executive Belinda Robinson said that we have a problem with funding Australian universities sustainably that must be addressed.

quote marksLet’s not kick the can down the road for another generation to grapple with and risk the quality and competitiveness of our higher education system.

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Regional Universities Network 

RUN LogoThe passage of the bill with changes proposed by RUN would help regional students attend and succeed at regional universities and would increase the number of professionals working in regional Australia. The findings of the committee in large part support the changes that RUN has been advocating in relation to interest rates, transitional funding and scholarships.

quote marksIt is important to encourage students to study in regional Australia so that they will work in the regions. The decision to study at a particular university should be at the choice of the student, not because one university or another can offer large scholarships.

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Group of  Eight 

The Go8 supports the direction of the proposed reforms. The Australian higher education sector is at a turning point: Go8 logocurrent settings are not sustainable and a new approach is needed. The improvements recommended by the Committee will prevent unintended negative impacts on students, graduates and universities, while diversifying the range of study options for students.

quote marksLet’s not kick the can down the road for another generation to grapple with and risk the quality and competitiveness of our higher education system.

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Innovative Research Universities

IRU8495_logoThe Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee report supports the need to pass the Bill and confirms important areas for change in  not imposing the ten year bond rate to index all HELP debts and for a structural adjustment fund to support the transition for all universities.  It is unfortunate, given the recent flurry of claims about the proposed Commonwealth Scholarship Scheme, that the Committee avoided the options to make it workable.  The IRU continues to support the need to pool the funds for Commonwealth Scholarships so that universities have funding for scholarships in line with their enrolment of students needing financial support.

quote marksAt heart, the role of universities is to educate and to develop knowledge. To do this well universities need more resources.

 

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Australian Technology Network

ATN recognises the pragmatic need for the removal of the current maximum student contribution amounts that providers ATN logocan charge for Commonwealth supported places – the so-called ‘deregulation’ of the domestic higher education system. There are a number of key points which have been clearly articulated by Universities Australia as representing the view and needs of the sector:
• We must reduce the magnitude of the 20% in the government contribution
• We cannot burden students with a loan scheme linked to the long-term bond rate
• We must actively assist universities during a transition from regulation to deregulation
• We must progress a commonwealth scholarship scheme devolved to the individual institutions for its implementation
• We must ensure appropriate oversight is put in place over implementation of the changes advanced.

quote marks… the complex reality is that provision of [an affordable and accessible] system for future generations of students requires action now, to ensure that sustainable funding base is secured.

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Senate committee reports on uni fees

 28 October 2014

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The Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee has tabled its report on the government’s Higher Education and Research  Amendment  Bill  after two months of hearings and 164 submissions from interested parties.

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 $100 notes

It’s utterly predictable: the committee has split 3 ways, with a majority report by the 3 Coalition members, recommending passage of the bill, perhaps with amendments,  and dissenting reports by the single Labor member and the single Greens member, both recommending rejection of the bill.  Predictable as it is, the report is also disappointing:  the recommendations contribute nothing at all to the resolution of a fundamental issue: placing the financing of Australian higher education – and, from The Scan’s perspective, Australian universities – on a sustainable footing.

The majority Coalition report acknowledges the various issues that have been raised with the reform package – principally, the affordability of higher education – but the recommendations are so anodyne as to be meaningless: they are framed merely to provide wriggle room for Christopher Pyne to negotiate .  Here’s an example:

The committee recommends that the government explore the provision of a structural adjustment package to assist certain sections of the higher education sector transition to a fully deregulated system. (emphasis added)

Not particularly helpful, really.

We suppose that the majority report recommendations provide a pointer to what the government might be prepared to negotiate around but that recommendation – and   the rest – is hardly breathtaking for its insight and ingenuity.  And the only recommendation that really counts is the final one:

The committee recommends that the bill be passed.

You can’t say much more for the two dissenting reports:   Labor recommended blanket rejection of the entire  the bill (with a few innocuous exceptions)  and the Greens recommended  rejection of the entire bill, with the injunction that the government revisit providing free higher education.

Where to from here?

In an op-ed piece in The Australian on 28 October 2014, Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis and La Trobe University vice-chancellor John Dewar put it this way:

Commentators have found much to fault in the higher education reform package. We are among those concerned about proposed higher interest rates for loan repayments and further cuts to funding for teaching, and have called for amendments to ameliorate these measures. Yet just rejecting the package, as urged by some senators, provides no solutions for a sector that cannot operate on present public funding and has fewer options to supplement income. Leaving the present settings in place is bad policy with worrying implications.

The implications are certainly worrying.  Labor can’t come to this argument entirely blameless: when in government it imposed or proposed swingeing cuts to the university sector of over $4 billion.  But the most telling argument for some sort of funding reform is a graph in the Labor dissenting report  (page 74 of the report):

 

Figure 1: Real Commonwealth funding per student place

 

2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
RealCommonwealth Contribution per student place(2014 dollars) 11,187 10,832 10,600 10,400 9,200 8,800 8,500

 

Way back in February  2013, when looking at the fees imbroglio, The Scan observed:

In the blue corner stand the sandstone universities, plus a couple of fellow travellers, who take the entirely reasonable approach that in the absence of further Commonwealth munificence the only alternative source of significant additional funding are students, by way of increased fees.

Then in December 2013, in Policy directions in higher education, your correspondent observed (published in the ACPET Journal of Higher Education) :

 ….significant changes to HECS (HELP) seem certain. These could include the introduction of a real interest rate (perhaps something higher than CPI but lower than market rates), a lower repayment threshold (currently HECS debtors begin repaying when their income exceeds $51,000), methods to collect repayments from expatriates (bilateral agreements with the UK and New Zealand, to start with), and recovery of HECS debts from deceased estates.  A proponent of such reforms in the past has been former education minister, Amanda Vanstone — a member of the Commission of Audit.

That’s where we’re headed – and it seems unavoidable.

In the meantime , Clive Palmer has reaffirmed  the Palmer United Party’s opposition to the government’s reform package – Palmer promises ‘bye bye’ to government’s proposed university reforms.

We know Palmer can wiggle – will he wriggle?

 

Palmer promises 'bye bye' to government's proposed university reforms

ABC News      |    28 October 2014

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Clive Palmer has declared “bye bye” to the Federal Government’s university overhaul, saying his party will vote against the measures.

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Clive Palmer

In the May budget, the Government announced it would cut funding for courses by 20 per cent and allow universities to charge their own fees.

But Labor and the Greens are against the change, leaving Education Minister Christopher Pyne to negotiate with the Senate crossbench.

The legislation is set for debate in the Senate tomorrow, but Mr Palmer, whose Palmer United Party holds three balance of power seats, said his senators would be voting against it.

“Our three senators will, that’s for sure, and I understand [Victorian Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator] Ricky Muir will as well, that’s his position,” he told Triple J’s Hack program.

“It’s bye bye for the education retrospective refit that they’re trying to do.

“This is 1950 Liberal Party policy, going back to the Commonwealth scholarships.”

Yesterday Mr Palmer had indicated he was open to negotiations, if more free scholarships were available.

But this afternoon Mr Palmer he advised students to write to Education Minister Christopher Pyne and “tell him he’s a mongrel”.

He said he would stick by PUP policy that university education should be free.

“We want to go back to freedom for our students so that they can develop and flower and bloom and be real value providers and leaders for Australia,” he said.

The PUP leader said he last spoke to Mr Pyne a couple of months ago.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne earlier told the ABC that a viable higher education system was at stake, and the Government would press ahead with discussions.

 

ALP launches anti uni fee dereregulation campaign

28 October 2014

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With the Senate inquiry into the Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill due to report to the Senate today and the bill expected to be debated this week, the Labor opposition has launched a campaign website and will be running TV ads opposing (what else!) the Bill.

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Dropping interest will make very little difference to student debts – NTEU

NTEU    |   20 October 2014

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The National Tertiary Education Union says that dropping the highly controversial proposed “real interest rat”e on university student debts will have little impact on student debt levels.

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NTEU analysis shows that while removing interest from HELP debts will marginally reduce the cost and the time it takes to pay off HELP debts, it is the amount students will be required to borrow or the cost of their degree which will be the most important factor determining the size of their debt and how long it will take students to repay their student debt.

The NTEU posited a debt scenario based on an accounting student paying $75,000 for the degree (more than twice the current price). Assuming six years out of the workforce almost a decade after graduation, the NTEU scenario has the debt repaid “only” seven years earlier if a real interest rate does not apply.

 

NTEU chart2

Jeannie Rea, NTEU National President said uncapping university fees has nothing to do with ‘setting our universities free’ but everything to do with reducing government spending on our universities:

“We need only look at the complete policy and market failure deregulation of vocational education and training is having in Victoria to understand what a big mistake deregulation of higher education would be.

“Education is far too important to be left to the market. We are urging the Senate to reject the Government’s legislation and we encourage the Minister to then sit down with all stakeholders to develop a plan to invest in higher education,” Rea concluded.

See
Different interest rate scenarios for HELP

Pyne will concede on interest in return for fee deregulation

The Daily Telegraph    |    19 October 2014

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The Commonwealth education minister Christopher Pyne has confirmed that, if the Senate will agree to his fee deregulation plan for universities, the government is willing to back down on the budget decision to set the interest rate for HECS debt at the 10-year government bond rate which is currently set at the Consumer Price Index.

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Pyne has been in regular talks with Palmer United Party leader Clive Palmer about the university changes, expected to be voted on in the Senate next week.

A Senate committee report on the legislation is due by 28 October.

Pyne has made clear  that deregulation is the key reform he and Tony Abbott want to achieve, even if it meant $5 billion in planned savings fell short. He told told Sky News’s Australian Agenda:

We all want to bring about a return to surplus but the Prime Minister and I are very keen to ensure that there is a reform. The higher-education reform that’s on the table is far-reaching and important.

Pyne said he was “making great progress” and “getting closer to an outcome” in his negotiations with the Senate crossbench. “I don’t believe the key elements will be negotiated away,” he said, adding there would still be savings in the medium to long term and universities would get the chance to find new sources of revenue.

There’s widespread concern that deregulated fees plus higher interest rates would result in “$100,000 fees”.

Incoming Group of 8 universities director Vicki Thomson said the reality that some medicine, and psychology degrees already cost taxpayers $100,000.

That’s a bit of a scare campaign. There are degrees now that cost $100,000 — it’s just that the student is not paying it. The taxpayer is.  Hypothetically a university could charge as part of a student’s contribution $100,000. But what university is going to do that because they will price themselves out of the market.

But as we have pointed out before, $100,000 fees may be scary, but it’s not necessarily scaremongering to point out that’s the direction in which we’re headed – see $100,000 degrees?  Sure thing!

Predicting the effects of Australian fee de-regulation

 Higher Education Strategy Associates     |       29 August 2014

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Canadian higher education analyst Alex Usher was recently in Australia, checking out the government’s proposed higher education reform package and, while not “alarmist” , neither was he insouciant about the likely impact of the passage of the government’s higher education package:

It won’t be the access disaster some are predicting, but it’s a bad deal for students nonetheless.

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If the Australian government’s plan on fee-deregulation comes to pass, what follows will be one of the greatest experiments ever in higher education.  Institutions will have

Alex Usher
Alex Usher

the right to set fees exactly as they want, which begs two questions: what will they do with that power, and what will the effects be?

Let’s start with the first question.  When institutions in England were given the freedom to set tuition fees up to a maximum of £9,000, nearly all of them immediately jumped to that maximum from their previous level of about £3,300.   Contrary to the government’s hopes, no one tried to compete on price.  Thus, the ceiling quickly became the mode.

De-regulation proponents in Australia say that won’t happen this time.  The problem in England, they say, was the existence of a ceiling – it gave everyone a point of reference around which to cluster.  Take away the ceiling and genuine competition will occur as universities figure out how to deliver different combinations of price and value.  Opponents say this is wishful thinking – the first set of fees to be announced by a prestige institution (read: Group of 8 member) will become a de facto cap, and hence the standard to which everyone else will gravitate.

There’s a story doing the rounds in Australia that supports this idea.  A few years ago, the government allowed institutions to raise fees by up to 25%, which pretty much all institutions did, apart from Curtin University in Western Australia.  Instantly, Curtin went from being second preference for local applications (behind the University of Western Australia) to third (behind Murdoch University).  Through market research, they found out that because students and their families can’t judge institutional quality, they judge it based on inputs – so when Curtin chose a cheaper price, the signal families received was that Curtin was of inferior quality.

There are contrary examples, of course.  In England, institutions have power to set fees both for international students and taught (i.e. professional) Master’s programs, and there is lots of variation in pricing.  So what’s the difference?  In a word, guaranteed income-contingent student loans with significant forgiveness provisions.  Domestic undergraduates have them, international and taught Master’s students don’t.  All undergraduates can get a loan to cover their fees up-front, and are not on the hook for the whole amount if their post-graduation incomes aren’t high enough.

So let’s apply that lesson to Australia, which also has an income-contingent Higher Education Contribution Scheme, albeit one with less generous repayment subsidies than England’s.  HECS will still insulate students from the main financial consequences of the new fees, and so, as in Britain, they will likely absorb the higher fees with very little effect on enrolment. As a result, institutions will push the fee levels quite high because they can do so without fear of losing students (the exception will be students who learn at a distance – which is a more significant chunk of the student body in Australia than it is in most other OECD countries).  The likelihood is that they will get quite close to the international student level – and they will do so at nearly all institutions.

The real question is: what will institutions do with that money?  The likelihood is that every penny of the extra $5,000 – $10,000 per year students will be asked to pay will be ploughed back into research for prestige reasons.  It won’t be the access disaster some are predicting, but it’s a bad deal for students nonetheless.