The results of the Norton-Kemp review into the demand-driven higher education system are in, and it’s not looking good

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.

James Leeder recognises change, and encourages you to bring your issues to the SRC.

It may come as a shock to you, as it did to me, to learn that we are entering week 8. Each mid-semester break thousands of students tell themselves that they will study hard and hardly drink at all. And yet, here we are, with three assignments and ten lectures to catch up on. Despite this shock to the system, mid-semester inevitably signals some form of change. Whether that’s an unwilling change because of the realisation that work is required to get through your degree, or a willing change to give up one your four regular society drinks each week in favour of study. Turning our eyes to the political cesspit, we are faced with the looming change of the first budget of the Abbott government. Regardless of how you feel, week 8 is inevitably a time of reflection and realisation; work, politics or courses, and it’s at this point that seeking out your SRC may be in your interests.

In my first year, it took me until week 8 to realise that mathematics lectures were never going to help me get through the course. It often can take a while to get into the swing of this semester’s courses, but week 8 is typically the point at which any issues become apparent. By now you have most likely done an assignment or two. This is the point – where you have an identified an issue but still have to endure it – where you are best placed to come to the SRC. Not only to seek caseworker help in appealing an unfair result or to receive advice, but also to see the student office-bearers who can campaign and attend meetings on your behalf. This is the way the SRC helps to improve your learning. We can only advocate for you when we are made aware of issues that require our help.

In two weeks we face (unwillingly) the first budget of the Abbott government. We have heard in the media, as recently as last weekend, that Christopher Pyne, our esteemed Minister for Education, has decided that the university sector shall be a point of focus. He has likened it to the car industry of the past, though the analogy is worrying if Sydney University is to go the way of Holden or Ford. But really, his point is that government sees the industry as failing and not keeping up to standards. It’s important to remember that unlike most other sectors, which the government supports, universities have not received increased funding year after year. Instead, as more and more students enrol, the government places an increasingly unreasonable burden on the expected quality and number of services provided. More worrying is the fact that many, including the Abbott government, have suggested fee increases as a necessary recourse. Increased fees only hurt students and the quality of our education. It validates the view that the education sector is not worthy of government support, yet billions of dollars on ineffective fighter planes is money well spent. We are clearly entering dark times.

Brace yourselves; winter is both literally and figuratively coming. Remember to bring issues and concerns to the SRC; you, as students, are our best source of information and political action.

It’s the beginning of the end…Abbott and Pyne are ready to cut and make you pay!!!!

It is nearly the end of the financial year that means the release of the Federal budget, as well as the change over of the Federal senate.

There is much to be scared about in relation to higher education. Two areas that would dramatically alter the accessibility to Universities, as we know them are the deregulation of fees, and the abolishment of low SES enrolment targets. These two policies combined together will leave a fragmented University system, which will only be available to the upper enchalant who can afford it.

Presidents of student organisations at all of the Group of Eight universities have jointly called for the Federal Government to reject a number of recommendations made in the Review of the Demand Driven Funding System. The report, released on the 13th of April calls for the abolition of university enrolment share targets for students from low socio-economic status backgrounds, the introduction of load fees, and increases to student contributions without any increase in base government funding to public universities.

Low SES students already face significant barriers to participation in higher education. Removing engagement targets for universities could ultimately mean that resources previously dedicated to recruiting and retaining students from low SES backgrounds could be diverted. This is a serious issue that goes to the core value of equal opportunity for all students regardless of their parents’ occupation or the suburb in which they live.

In addition the deregulation of Fees will further enhance the gap in accessibility to Universities. Deregulation allows the Universities to choose the price tag and segment the quality of your education, ie the quality of the teachers, how many students in you lectures and tutorials, and the quality of the content being taught.

As stated in the Sydney Morning Herald on the 23/4 “Students could choose to pay a premium for a particular research intensive course or smaller classes at a particular university or opt for paying a lower fee for fewer options at another institution.”

Although there has been no talk of abolishing HECS, the deregulation of fees will force students to choose between a higher-class education, or a lifetime of debt.

This is just the beginning of the detrimental announcements that will come from Christopher Pyne over the coming months.