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Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

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Tertiary education providers—more regulation for some and less regulation for others

In the last sitting week of Parliament for the year, the Government changed regulatory requirements for tertiary education providers with the passage of the Education Services for Overseas Students (Streamlining Regulation) Bill 2015, and the Higher Education Support Amendment (VET FEE-HELP Reform) Bill 2015. It is timely to take stock of Australia’s fragmented approach to the regulation of the tertiary education sector. Read more...

Unknown costs a challenge for the class of 2014

As universities around the country hold Open Days, and closing dates for applications for 2015 entry loom, spare a thought for this year’s crop of Year 12 students. Not only do they have the usual challenges of deciding what course they want to do, and considering what Australian Tertiary Admissions Rank (ATAR) they might get, they also have no idea how much a university course might cost them.  Read more...

You can still get a free university education—you just have to be prepared to die for it

There has been considerable discussion about the increasing Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) debt that students are likely to accrue as a result of changes proposed in the recent Budget. One group of students will not feel the impact of these increased debt levels—those who die before they repay the debt. There are reports that the Government is considering changing this, although it has been denied by the Prime Minister. Read more...

Has the United Kingdom sold their student debt?

On a recent Q&A program Education Minister Christopher Pyne, in response to a question about selling HECS debt, stated: ‘Britain have sold their HECS debt as an asset and we should investigate whether that is a sensible move for us to do so.’ This Flag Post looks at the UK experience of selling some of their student loan; of a 2007 proposal to sell more that did not proceed and of recent proposals to again sell part of their student debt asset.Pre 1998 debtThe UK Labour Government introduced an income contingent student loan scheme similar to Australia’s HECS HELP programme in 1998. The student loan scheme that had existed since 1990 was a loan with fixed rate repayments over five years ... Read more...

For sale: Refurbished National Research Priorities

Back in 2002, the Howard Government announced four National Research Priorities (NRPs) to focus investment on research in key areas that could deliver significant economic, social and environmental benefits to Australia. The Australian Government has just unveiled 15 new Strategic Research Priorities; the result of a long-awaited and thoughtful refurbishment. The original National Research Priorities were: An Environmentally Sustainable Australia Promoting and Maintaining Good Health Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries Safeguarding Australia Each of the NRPs was expanded into a number of priority goals that covered research in a range of disciplines.  Th... Read more...

Higher education savings - students pick up the bill

The government’s Statement on Higher Education announces savings measures in three areas. Reaction from, and on behalf of, the higher education sector has been negative. The peak body representing universities, Universities Australia, has condemned the cuts.Yet it is not the universities that will bear the brunt of the savings but their students.Of the expected $2.33 billion in savings:$230 million is coming from removal of HECS discounts and repayment bonuses$900 million is coming from the two-year, 2 per cent efficiency dividend being applied to university funding, and$1,200 million is coming from conversion of the Student Start-up Scholarship from a benefit to a loan.Only one of these mea... Read more...

And then there were none: HECS discounts

On 13 April 2013 the Australian government released a Statement on Higher Education. One of the three savings measures announced is ‘removal of the 10 per cent discount on paying university fees upfront and the 5 per cent bonus received for voluntary repayment of HELP debts’.  This move is the end of the line for two incentives that have been whittled away over the past ten years. Abolishing them is expected to save $230 million.Higher Education Loan Program (HELP)The Higher Education Contribution scheme (HECS) was first introduced in 1989. Its purpose was to provide income contingent loans to Commonwealth supported students.In 2005 there was a major overhaul of the scheme. Additional loans ... Read more...

Australia in the Asian Century: Improving university rankings

The Asian Century White Paper sees higher education as a key sector in developing capabilities for economic success in what it calls ‘the Asian century’ and sets a national objective that ‘by 2025 10 of Australia’s universities will be in the world’s top 100’.A number of questions arise from this objective, including the appropriateness of world rankings in setting and measuring goals; the degree of investment required to improve rankings and a decision on which ranking system to use.World rankings have largely arisen in the last decade and there are now five major world university ranking systems. They have variations in methodologies but all stress research investment and performance over ... Read more...

Australia's tertiary students - the latest snapshot

Almost twice as many higher education graduates enrol in vocational education and training courses than the other way round.The National Centre for Vocational Education Research (NCVER) has just released Tertiary Education and Training 2010, an annual publication that compares vocational education and training (VET) and higher education on a range of key measures. It draws on data from the National VET Provider Collection and the Higher Education Statistics Collection. One sector or two?Australia’s higher education and VET sectors are vastly different, not just in what they deliver but structurally, financially and culturally. However, a more joined-up tertiary education sector is never far ... Read more...

Are maths and science enrolments increasing?

In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook the Government announced savings of $403.6 million over three years through a measure to increase the HECS amount for mathematics and science students from 2013. The increase will reverse the 2009 reduction in HECS which aimed at increasing enrolments in the science disciplines.This post discusses the trends in enrolments following the 2008-2009 Budget measure.In the 2008-2009 Budget the Rudd Government honoured an election commitment to reduce the HECS HELP fees for mathematics and science disciplines. The measure was implemented with passage of the Higher Education Support Amendment (2008 Budget Measures) Bill 2008.From 1 January 2009 contributio... Read more...