Deputy Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Ms Anne-Marie Lansdown said that the peak body has long argued for a reduction to the $1.9 billion cut which would put significant upward pressure on student fees, making them higher than they need to be, if university fees are deregulated.
“Universities Australia believes that without any movement on the cut, it will be difficult to win the support of the university sector or the crossbench for the package,” Ms Lansdown said.
“If the negotiations can scale back the $1.9 billion cut, it would be a very positive step, one that goes directly to the issue of addressing fairness and affordability for students and parents.”
Ms Lansdown said that the reintroduction of an amended higher education reform bill into the lower house in the final sitting week of 2014 showed that the Government was serious when it said it was prepared to listen and negotiate with the crossbenchers – but the new bill still did not go far enough.
“When Parliament resumes, we call on the crossbench to further amend and shape a stronger, fairer higher education package and pass it as a matter of priority,” Ms Lansdown said.
“With key changes, such as a reduction to the 20 per cent cut, a larger structural adjustment package and an expert review panel, the package will provide universities with the financial certainty to continue to provide high quality education and research for students.
“A further review into higher education will only delay taking vital action needed to keep the sector strong and sustainable, especially since there have already been a number of major reviews into university funding over the past few years.
“Universities have been faced with the challenge of under-investment by governments at the very time that the sector requires funding certainty to properly plan the delivery of a high quality education and research system for students,” Ms Lansdown said.
Universities Australia remains ready to continue to negotiate with the crossbench Senators and the Government so that Parliament can shape a package that strengthens our universities while keeping it fair for all.