Tertiary Education under Pressure

In the very different and distant world outside the world of UQ, things have been afoot. I know, I am shocked that there is a world outside UQ too! But I recently ventured to this strange place called “the Griffith University” for a panel hosted by the Griffith SRC. The panel consisted of Milton Dick MP the Federal Member of Oxley, Terri Butler MP the Federal Member of Griffith, Andrew Laming MP the Federal Member of Bowman, Andrew Cooper the President of LibertyWorks Inc. and John Slater, UQ’s own stupol alumni and executive director of H R Nicholls Society.


This panel addressed some very interesting changing terms to all of our tertiary education. Despite each panellist having their own views on the changes, some questions were posed; why this is happening, and what is the accuracy of other panellists facts and opinions; what are the changes?


  • You are paying more. Every year your fees will increase by 1.8% every year until 2021
  • You have to pay back sooner. If you are earning over $42,000 (so if you are working full time in retail for example)
  • You will have to pay back more. The repayment rate will now increase with your income (Goodbye savings)
  • New Zealand students will no longer receive their tertiary education at a discounted rate but will be charged full price. (However, an Australian student would receive free education in New Zealand)
  • Universities themselves will lose $384.2 million dollars over 2 years through the cutting of “efficiency dividend” to the Commonwealth Grant Scheme.
  • $15.2 million has been allocated to establish 8 regional study hubs, however, it is still unclear if this will make VET programs more accessible


In layman’s terms, Milton Dick and Terri Butler were highly opposed to these changes. Their rationale was that these changes would make it increasingly harder for disadvantaged people to get access to higher education and that these changes are targeting some highly vulnerable people in the community, while there is a $65 billion tax cut to big business.


“What can the calibre be, of university education be when you take out $3.8 billion dollars and what the teaching standards are going to be? None of us in Australia want to see a reduction in research and development, particularly in teaching programs. Unfortunately, one of the things we are going to see in the budget, is 3000 postgraduate coursework places that are going to be cut and it is going to be harder to get into that research and further education, in higher education.


But also, access to education when kids from low-income backgrounds or disadvantaged areas, that have that rigid ability to get into courses. And now for the first time, that $3000 loading is gone and people are going to have to pay for that.


When you are talking about access to higher education and social justice, we need to be making sure people can get in the door of university, but if we shut that door or put up more obstacles and more barriers, we are going to end up in a state like America, where only if your parents are wealthy you can get into university.” stated Milton Dick MP.


Terri Butler was also shocked by the changes to higher education, stating, “What this does for young people in the budget is higher amounts of private debt to bear, much more difficult repayment arrangements, and nothing even remotely significant to target the cost of housing in this country and no attempt to tackle negative gearing and the incentives towards investing in older houses for investors at the expense of young people and that doesn’t even come close to covering it”


Where as on the other side of the spectrum, we had Andrew Laming, Andrew Cooper and John Slater singing the praises of these changes. However, Laming delivered some great highlights of the night, especially, when Milton asked if anyone in the room wanted a pay cut and Andrew Laming MP put up his hand and said: “I want a different job”.


However, Andrew Laming defended the Government’s changes, “when you talk about cuts and even university costs. The reason for many of these changes is that university revenue has increased faster than the costs. Because of the demand-driven university sector, the massive expansion 600,000 new students this year, rightly going to university, the universities are flushed with money. There is no drive for an economy of scale, and this many extra students, they need to find an economy of scale.”


Andrew Laming also made mentions of a Ministerial Discretion, where a case by case committee that will the circumstances to International/New Zealand people who will be deeply affected who are currently studying.

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