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The Government Changes Tertiary Education Policy

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Media is reporting that the Turnbull government has abandoned plans to allow universities to set their own fees for up to 20% of their courses.

This proposal was announced as part of the election campaign as the Coalition tried to modify some of the Abbott government’s policies for deregulated tertiary fees (the so-called $100,000

degrees).

The policy for deregulated “flagship” courses was universally rejected by the universities which were opposed to a “two-tiered” university system.

The government is likely to also cut the Abbott government proposal for a 20% reduction to university fee funding.

However it is likely that it will increase the proportion of course fees to be paid by students as well as having an earlier cut in threshold for HECS repayment.

The cut to university funding amounted to a budget saving of $2.3 billion over 3 years and $17 billion over a decade.

Ditching the cut will leave a big hole in the budget bottom line which will have to be covered by Education Minister Simon Birmingham from his portfolio budget allocation.

One possibility is that the government could save $2.4 billion by getting rid of the plan to expand federal government funding for private universities and colleges, TAFE, and pathways programs although how this will fit in with the big expansion to supply vocational courses to India is unknown.

A spokesman for Senator Birmingham said he would not comment on pre-budget speculation.

Senator Birmingham has previously made it clear that he has no intention of delivering policies with little chance of passing the Senate or gaining public support.

The subsidy for tertiary education has always been an example of middle class welfare and, when Julia Gillard deregulated the number of university places, it became unsustainable.

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