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The Abbott Government's planned de-regulation of uni degrees to hit women the hardest

Posted 26 June 2014 by Terri Macdonald (NTEU National Office)

New modelling by the National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling (NATSEM) at the University of Canberra, in conjunction with news website The Conversation report (HECS upon you: NATSEM models the real impact of higher uni fees)  has found that women are likely to be hit hardest by deregulation, with female science graduates paying $45,000 more for their degrees, even if the actual cost of degrees did not substantially increase.

NATSEM’s modelling is in the same vein as that by the NTEU and other sector bodies and organisations, including Universities Australia, The Greens, the ANU Mathematical Science Institute.  However, NATSEM's figures clearly show women to be the biggest losers if fee deregulation and changes to HECS go ahead.

Media has reported (New Matilda: Fee Changes Could Devastate Women in Science) NATSEM principle research fellow, Ben Phillips, stating that the interest on HECs repayments to the bond rate would disproportionately impact women.

“Women tend to have lower incomes so when they graduate, they start with a little less, and as they progress into their late 20s and 30s they’re more likely to have time away from work or to go part time,” Phillips said.

“That means there’s quite a few years where they’re not likely to be paying much HECs at all, so their interest will be compounding through time, so their repayments tend to take a longer period of time.”

NATSEMS modelling (based on the cost of degrees at the University of Canberra), and shows that a degree would blow out substantially over time, with radically different impacts depending on the degree and the gender of the student.

It found that, under the current fee structure, a new male business student at the University of Canberra would expect to pay off a three year degree in 7.3 years; a female would take 8.6 years.

In the likley scenario where the university seeks to recover its costs from the government’s planned funding reduction, the payoff years would increase to 8.2 and 9.7 years respectively. Total repayments increase for males from around A$36,200 to A$45,700 and slightly higher for females ($37,100 to $48,400).

However, it was noted that business students already pay a larger proportion of the cost of their degrees than many other courses. The payoff times and total repayments are significantly higher for science, nursing and teaching degrees – particularly for females. A female science graduate under a full fee scenario would pay off her degree in 13.9 years, up from 8.4 years. Her total repayments will increase by an estimated $51,500: from $44,200 to $95,700 .

Women from disadvantaged backgrounds, single parents and those who take time out for carer obligations will be hit hardest by the changes.  NATSEM reports that, with a higher interest rate (Government bond rate of aprox 5%) and potentially several years out of the work force or working part-time (and thus not paying off the debt) it would be highly likely that such persons, particularly for high-fee and lower income occupations (such as nursing and teaching) could be paying off their degrees for well in excess of 20 years.







  1. June Dryburgh said on 17:25 Thursday 14 Aug, 2014

    [ +8 ] Women have for years been paid less than men in many jobs and now they are expected to pay more for an education! This government is really quite arrogant in its attitude towards women in particular and towards the underprivileged in general.

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