Pyne's university revolution the greatest change in 30 years

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Federal Budget has outlined massive and much needed reform to the higher education sector says the University of Adelaide's Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Warren Bebbington.

"This is the most sweeping reform of Australian higher education for 30 years - since the Dawkins revolution of the 1980s," says Professor Bebbington.

"Dramatically expanding the government-supported choice for students to public and private institutions will gradually enrich and transform the national education landscape," he says. "And the new Quality Indicators of Learning and Teaching resource will give students the robust consumer information they need to make a sensible choice."

He went on to welcome the Government support for students from low socio-economic backgrounds and the simplification of funding bands.

"Helping thousands of disadvantaged students to prepare for university study through funded diplomas and associate degrees will add an element of fairness that has been missing in the past.

"Moreover, restructuring the illogical array of different funding bands for the various disciplines, a reform we've all wanted for years, will now happen in one stroke," he says.

Professor Bebbington has been concerned about the demand driven system for some time.

"The existing demand-driven system contained the seeds of its own destruction," he says. "Left as is, it would have spiralled out of control, becoming an increasing burden for all taxpayers."

He says the changes to the HELP scheme will help to address the rising costs of the system: "The slight lowering of the HELP repayment threshold and the raising of student contributions will be unpopular with students but will avoid what may have been an eventual collapse of public support for a multiplying national HELP debt," he says.

The new $20b medical research fund is an extraordinary initiative says Professor Bebbington but he warns it should not be at the cost to other important research investment.

"Restoring NCRIS and Future Fellowships, in addition to the new $20 billion medical research fund, are obviously very welcome. But more still needs to be done to make research funding across all areas adequate. This is one of many issues that needs to be addressed. Only then will our universities achieve the kind of competitive world-class ranking success that we all want to see.

"The deregulation of fees was always going to be the logical next stage for sector-wide reform. For an institution like the University of Adelaide, which has already committed to research-led teaching through small-group discovery, the chance to sustain into the future what students will regard as a first-class preparation for employment, is now secure," he says.


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