Curtin University of Technology
UK experience signposts Australia’s future
At the University & Colleges Union (UCU) we have been following recent events in Australia closely. Your government’s plans to increase student fees and to open up the sector to for-profit providers are depressingly familiar to staff and students in English higher education. On a more positive note, it has been fantastic to see the level of protests in Australia at the proposed fee changes and budget cuts!
The UK experience
What has been happening in England regarding fees, debt and the overall sustainability of the loan system? Since 2012-13 universities in England have been able to charge up to £9000 a year for new full-time undergraduates. As in Australia students don’t pay upfront fees but are required to take up a government-backed loan, which is paid back after graduation. Graduates must repay 9% of their gross income above a certain level of annual income (the current threshold is £25,000). Interest rates on loans vary from 0–3% above the inflation
How often do you hear NTEU representatives mumble ‘General – oh and/or Professional staff’? For our first two decades, the NTEU had two major sections of membership – academic and general. Academics are easily identified as members of that profession and classified as such. Two unions covering academic staff in universities and colleges were part of the original merger to form the NTEU. There were also three General Staff unions covering university and associated staff, and Victorian TAFE staff who were called PACCT staff. Over time, allied sections of other unions in universities joined us along with research and other allied institutions’ staff.
Describing staff who cover many occupations with many qualifications has become more complex. Universities are favouring the term ‘Professional’, but not everyone has a professional position. There is a ‘third space’ but this is of concern to academics particularly as there is more talk of ‘unbundling’ the academic role. We asked three leading General Staff members to
Given the overwhelming evidence on the impact of deregulation and other higher education policy changes proposed by the Federal Government, it should come as no real surprise that more women are ...
The Minister for Education Christopher Pyne has dismissed modelling of the impacts of deregulating university fees and imposing real interest on student debt undertaken by the National Centre for ...
Some of the more questions frequently asked about the impacts of Christopher Pyne’s proposed changes to higher education include what impact they are likely to have on the cost of getting an Australian university degree and how this will compare to the rest of the world.
While we do not know exactly how much the cost of university degree in Australia will increases as rest of the government allowing universities and other providers offering Commonwealth supported places to charge whatever price they think the market will bear. The NTEU’s analysis of factors determining likely prices rises and what impact this will have on students is the subject of a fact sheet called How much will a uni degree cost?
The purpose of this note however, is compare how much it costs to undertake an undergraduate university degree in Australia compared to the rest of the world. In order to ensure that we are comparing universities of similar standing we have used data on university fees included in QS World University Ranking Top 500 for 2013. The data presented in Figure 1 (also see Table 1) show both the average fee charged to undergraduate students by universities in the Top 500 in each country with at least 3 universities in the top 500. It also shows range (top and bottom) of average fees charged by the different universities in each country.
On 25 March 2014 – a watershed day in the debate of freedom of speech versus the right for all Australian citizens to be protected from acts of racial discrimination – Attorney-General George Brandis announced the Government intended to repeal Sections 18.B, C, D and E from the Racial Discrimination Act (1975), replacing them with a ‘strengthened’ version.
This brought passionate pleas from many community organisations and individuals to immediately withdraw the proposal.
While it would appear that the Government is forging ahead with this move on the basis that they see fault with these sections of the Act, the explanations from the Attorney-General on why his new proposed wording would be beneficial fall far short of the existing protections in the Act.
It’s history now, but at the time the debacle that was the WA Senate count lost-votes saga following the 2013 Federal Election was of great concern and interest to the WA Division. For the first time, the Union had advocated for a particular vote in a Federal Election and members in WA had responded enthusiastically with a turn-out on polling booths to promote the Vote Smart message that was beyond our expectations.
After all that work, to have the outcome hinge on 11 votes and then 1300 missing ones, and be drawn out over several months was excruciating for us as very interested by-standers. One can only imagine what it was like for the actual candidates who found their lives on hold for another five
As we all wait with anticipation for the market to ‘waive’ its magic in the deregulated higher education market, we might ask why such an approach has been such an unmitigated failure in relation to Vocational Education and Training (VET) in Victoria. The Brumby Labor Government’s 2008 Securing Jobs for Your Future policy introduced a student-demand driven system in which public funding was fully contestable between public TAFE institutes and private providers for the delivery of VET, not dissimilar to the approach Christopher Pyne wants to impose on higher education.
The primary objective of the Victorian policy was to increase the number of people undertaking training in areas and at levels where skills are needed for the Victorian economy. The only problem is that this did not
The Federal Budget claims to create a new ‘Commonwealth Scholarship’ scheme but, in reality it cuts $800 million from the existing scheme, trashes the Liberal legacy of Menzies and Nelson, and makes things worse for low-income students.
Before Whitlam abolished fees, Menzies had in place a widespread system of Commonwealth Scholarships (CS) which paid for tuition fees and provided a living