Labor’s Higher Education Review

Today Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that Labor are launching a review into Higher Education in Australia. Gillard claims that amongst the goals of the review will be the investigating of University funding arrangements and student support services. I’m not too sure how optimistic I am that Labor will make any fundamental changes, even though Gillard was involved with the National Union of Students and was even their national president for a time.

I’ll be drafting a letter to Julia Gillard and my Local Federal Representative outlining my concerns for Higher Education, particularly from the perspective of a distance education student living in regional Australia. I would like to hear any concerns, criticisms or praise that any readers/contributors here may have towards the current policies and legislation relating to Higher Education in Australia.

Posted by Simon.


9 Responses to “Labor’s Higher Education Review”

  1. 1 Brad March 13, 2008 at 2:15 pm

    From my own perspective as a mature aged student, the opportunities to pursue a university education have been limited only by the cost. Non-award study was full paying, but it provided an opportunity to ‘prove myself’. I am now an undergraduate and receiving a Commonwealth funding of 20 percent toward my unit fees. I therefore have no complaints on that front.

    The greater threat that I perceive has been drawn from conversations with university lecturers. But I can only list these people on the fingers of one hand, so I say the following with some caution.

    It appears that the level of university funding (per department or division)is highly dependent upon the so called ‘relevance’ of the material being taught. Here I am assuming that relevance = vocational application (or popularity). I am further led to believe that the administrative demands placed upon universities to ‘prove’ their relevance are quite heavy. The implications on studies of philosophy and religion, for example, probably belong in a different thread. Generally speaking, I am concerned that current policies might be intruding upon a free pursuit of knowledge.

  2. 2 Nathan March 13, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    when do you plan to send the letter, simon?

    i have downloaded the Higher Education Support Act which is about 400 pages. for me to give an informed opinion would take a little time. there is, however, a summary to be found here.

  3. 3 Simon March 13, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I’m not exactly sure when I’ll post off my letter Nath but it will be after a ‘fair amount’ of consultation and research. Thanks for the link too, I’d like to know specifically what areas Gillard is looking at in there.

    Brad, what would your recommendations/requests be relative to your experience? Would you like non-award places to be covered by FEE-HELP even if they are not part of a degree program, or part of an OUA degree program, (as I would), would you like funding to be more transparent, and/or would you like funding to be evenly distributed based upon study ‘types’ rather than popularity?

  4. 4 Nathan March 13, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    can i ask, what systems of funding are currently available other than ausstudy? i know 5/6 of bugger all about this stuff, as i’ve only ever made an application to receive hecs

  5. 5 Simon March 13, 2008 at 6:57 pm

    Off the top of my head – HECS, HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP are the main government options and they all have their own benefits and drawbacks. HECS is available for Government funded places so the student has the benefit of receiving their course at a discounted rate and with HECS the Government pays the remainder of the fees that the student pays back, interest free, at a later date. The only increase in the HECS loan is CPI increases.

    HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP, as far as I can tell, are the same but are only available in certain situations. If you’re a student of OUA then FEE-HELP is interest free. If you’re a non-award student then you are only entitled to HECS-HELP or FEE-HELP if the courses you are studying towards are part of a registered degree program and you pay interest, something like 20%.

    As a non-award student studying through OUA or not towards a registered degree program, that you’ve enrolled in, then there are no funding options. You are required to pay the fees up front and in full, i.e. a full fee paying student. For subjects in the arts at the University of Queensland each course is $1530.

    Post graduate is different but something I don’t really need to go into here. I will say though that most post grads can access FEE-HELP interest free and there are other alternate funding programs too such as University grants, private grants and Government grants for specific research projects.

  6. 6 Simon March 13, 2008 at 11:38 pm

    Universities are also getting on the bandwagon making a press statement later today. See the media report.

  7. 7 Nathan March 14, 2008 at 11:08 am

    is it obvious scholarships are part of, or included in, all this funding?

  8. 8 Simon March 14, 2008 at 1:37 pm

    Yeah, scholarships are being looked at. At the undergraduate level scholarships are very regulated, what Australian Universities are arguing for is that this regulation be relaxed to allow private scholarships access to Undergraduates’. Australian Universities are focusing more upon the financial side of review rather than the academic side. How scholarships are sourced, processed and managed is a major aspect of the review.

  9. 9 Brad March 14, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    My requests would be that during the review phase:
    a) Please don’t ignore the fact that mature aged students use full-fee paying options because they often don’t meet the requirements for a CSP.
    b) Please be aware that your official media statement
    makes no mention of your plans to ensure that these mature-aged students can gain a university education. In fact, the statement makes it explicit that young Australians are a priority.
    c) Please clarify whether the Labor Party still holds the view, espoused on ABC 702 by Ms. Jenny Macklin on 21st July 2006, that full-fee paying students are depriving other students of opportunities.
    d) Please be aware that your plans to compensate the universities for the financial losses incurred (due to the loss of full-fee paying students) will apparently not compensate the mature student who, due to his/her maturity, is now ready and willing to make a focused contribution to “areas of national priority”.
    e) Please don’t starve of funding, those disciplines that do not meet the criteria of serving “national priority”.

    Thanks for providing the forum here Simon.

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