POLITICS

University Heads Just Can't Support 'Double Whammy' On Students

And an "overwhelming majority" will tell the Senate to say no to new higher ed reforms.

16/05/2017 3:05 PM AEST | Updated 16/05/2017 3:07 PM AEST
Alex Ellinghausen/Fairfax
Universities Australia Chair Professor Barney Glover and Education Minister Simon Birmingham together, but not of the same mind on uni funding.

CANBERRA -- University Vice-Chancellors were generally behind the last, failed attempt to get higher education reforms through parliament. Well, they are not this time.

Amid furious student protests including live on the ABC's Q&A on Monday night, universities heads have met and decided to unanimously oppose the Turnbull Government's proposals to cut university funding and lift student fees.

After failing for four years to bring in university fee deregulation and a 20 percent cut to university funding, the Coalition Government -- in Scott Morrison's second budget -- is proposing to apply a $2.8 billion (2.5 percent) "efficiency dividend" over the next two years, while it wants to increase student fees by 1.8 percent next year and continue lifting it to a total of 7.5 percent by 2021.

As well, the student loan repayment threshold is being dropped to $42,000.

The Vice-Chancellors are critical of the revamped legislation as it "hard-wires" continuing cuts into university funding and is a "double whammy" on students -- by lifting fees and eroding funding.

As such, a statement from representative body, Universities Australia, said universities would be urging the Senate crossbench to reject the reforms.

"These are far-reaching changes that would fundamentally alter the nature of the university system," the statement read.

"An overwhelming majority of Vice-Chancellors agreed they could not recommend that the Senate crossbench pass the legislative package. Cuts to universities are not in Australia's interests, nor in the interests of Australia's students."

The reforms were quickly opposed by Labor and the Greens, meaning the Turnbull Government, in particular Education Minister Simon Birmingham, has work to do to get the reforms through the senate crossbench.

Independent senator Jacqui Lambie appears quite unimpressed.

Nick Xenophon Team (NXT) senators and members of Pauline Hanson's One Nation party are officially considering the reforms.

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