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Thursday, 13 May 2010
Page: 2835

Senator MASON (1:09 PM) —I know that the Higher Education Support Amendment (University College London) Bill 2010 is listed as non-controversial, but that does not mean that it is without significance. It is a highly significant bill. As Senator Stephens would know, while some people—indeed, some of my own colleagues—do not appreciate the full significance of the higher education sector to our economy, it is our third-largest export, so anything to do with higher education is critical to this country’s future. This bill foreshadows and flags the increasing internationalisation of the Australian tertiary sector, allowing further universities to enter into the sector and compete with Australian universities. Specifically, this bill seeks to enable the listing of University College London as a table C provider, which will allow it to offer FEE-HELP assistance to eligible domestic students.

Honourable senators will be aware that University College London, known as UCL, is one of the world’s leading research institutions. It is one of the great universities of the English-speaking world, and it is a great thing that this bill will enable them to compete in Australia. Enabling students to attend UCL and qualify for FEE-HELP signals the continued internationalisation of higher education in Australia. This is a good thing. It is a great thing for our nation. It also signals that with competition our nation cannot in any sense afford to rest on its laurels. I know the government is seeking not to do that, and the opposition will encourage them in that endeavour. The opposition certainly supports this bill.