The results of the Norton-Kemp review into the demand-driven higher education system are in, and it’s not looking good for students. This review was commissioned by Abbott and Pyne late last year, doubtlessly to provide an excuse for a new round of cuts to be announced in next months budget. Andrew Norton and David Kemp were responsible for an attack on university funding under the Howard government, and this report shows they are now gearing up for round two.
The main recommendation announced in the review is to further expand the demand-driven system first implemented by the Gillard government to include private colleges. Many private colleges are run like businesses, with profit rather than a quality education being key. To continue the demand-driven scheme without a corresponding increase in government funding will lead to a further degeneration of the quality education students are receiving.
How do Norton and Kemp suggest to fund this expansion? With students, rather than government, footing the bill of course. An increase in student fees has been recommended in the review, alongside the removal of equity targets, which would see 20% of all students originate from disadvantaged backgrounds by 2020.
Postgraduate students are also coming under attack, with the removal of subsidies for more postgrad degrees slated as another way to cut costs. HECS has not escaped the firing line either, with the suggestion of a flat 10% loan fee on HECS, the lowering of the minimum income required to start repayments, and plans to pass the HECS debt down from deceased states or retrieve it from ex-students living out of the country.
While it is unclear exactly which of these attacks will be unleashed in next months budget, it is clear that higher education will be taking a hit, with students bearing the brunt of the costs. Students need to be ready to respond to any cuts, while continuing the demand for a free and fully funded education system. If you would like to get involved with fighting Abbott and Pyne’s cuts, join the weekly Education Action Group meetings, Tuesday 2pm on the New Law Lawns.