Urgent need for 'Gonski-style' higher education review
The Nick Xenophon Team has called for a comprehensive ‘Gonski-style’ review of teritary education – in universities and vocational education – as part of any Federal Government reform of the sector.
“Until there is a comprehensive review into post-secondary education, it would be wrong to support many of the cuts proposed by the Government, including the move to reduce university funding, lowering the threshold for HELP repayments and increasing the student fee contribution,” said Rebekha Sharkie, the NXT spokesperson for education.
“We have to prepare our future workforce and consider how best to shape the transition from high school to post-secondary education to ensure we build our nation’s capacity and remain adaptable to workforce demands.
“Currently, we have students who are leaving university with high debts and little opportunity of securing stable employment in their area of study.
"We have too many highly qualified young people, with PhD degrees, stacking supermarket shelves or making lattes. We need to do better than this.”
Senator Nick Xenophon said: "In order to become resilient and innovative, we need an independent panel to do a comprehensive root and branch review of our post-secondary education sector, taking into account the role the sector plays in Australian society both in economic and social terms.
“This review needs bipartisan support, and the support of the sector, to look at where we are, where we want to go, and how best to get there, both in a local and global context.
“This is the only way the sector, our workplaces and more importantly our students can have certainty for the future that our institutions are delivering world-leading education and creating pathways to training outside the university sector.”
NXT has signalled its support for some of the Government’s measures including:
- Increased funding for Work Experience In Industry units that are credited within study courses.
- The $15 million commitment over four years to assist in the establishment and maintenance of up to eight community-owned, regional study hubs across mainland Australia.
- The reform of the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP), including enshrining the program in legislation to protect it from funding cuts in the future.
Rebekha said NXT also supported the introduction of a HECS-HELP specific loan limit of $102,000 and the introduction of a FEE-HELP specific loan limit of $150,000.
"While this measure would likely result in a modest budget saving in the short term, I believe it would send an important message to students that the Government will not support elongated study where it results in excessive loan amounts that are unlikely to be repaid,” Rebekha said.
However, NXT has ruled out supporting a range of measures including:
- An Efficiency Dividend on the Commonwealth Grant Scheme.
- Changes to the repayment thresholds for the Higher Education Loan Program.
- Replacing subsidies with loans for most permanent residents and New Zealand citizens.
- A scholarship system for postgraduate coursework places.
- Performance contingent funding for universities.
- New arrangements for enabling courses.