Critical time for once-in-a-lifetime higher education reform

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Warren Bebbington, will join other Group of Eight vice-chancellors assembling in Canberra tomorrow to urge Federal politicians to amend but support the higher education reforms due for introduction to the Parliament on Thursday.

"This is a hugely important moment for Australia's universities," said Professor Bebbington. "We cannot go on with a system where higher education budget costs are spiralling out of control from unending enrolment expansion, yet universities themselves are slowly starving."

Professor Bebbington called on all politicians to balance the long-term sector reform with the realistic needs of students.

"The current Pyne proposal on the table needs amendment," he said. "The overwhelming majority of vice-chancellors support the deregulation of university fees but oppose the increased interest rates proposed for student debts.

"Since the Budget was announced, we've heard frightening projections of exorbitant fees if deregulation is adopted. But the fact is, in a competitive environment, some fees will go up and some down. Students will have a range of choice they have never had before," he said.

Professor Bebbington said that the prospect of new cuts to research funding if the reforms did not pass was very real.

"If the reform package fails, the government will still need to reign in the rapidly expanding higher education budget costs," he said.

"I fear that cutting the research grant schemes will be almost the only option open to them.

"That would be a disastrous outcome for a research-intensive university like Adelaide and, more importantly, the Australian community who have the most to lose from less investment in research," he said.


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