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Vice-Chancellors hit flaws in Nelson plan.



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Media Release Jenny MacklinMP

Monday, June 2, 2003

Deputy Leader of the Opposition

Shadow Minister for Employment, Education, Training & Science Federal Member for Jagajaga

VICE-CHANCELLORS HIT FLAWS IN NELSON PLAN

Australia’s vice-chancellors have identified key flaws in the Howard Government’s planned changes for higher education, Deputy Labor leader Jenny Macklin said today.

Ms Macklin said that in their response, Excellence and equity: Foundations for the Future of Australia’s universities, the vice-chancellors challenged basic elements of the government’s plans, including undermining access to university education for students from low- and middle-income families, high interest rate student loans, study limits, tying university funding to changes in workplace relations and governance, and increased government intervention in the operation of universities.

“Australia’s vice-chancellors have found that the Howard Government’s plans would do more harm than good to our universities.

“These are the people Education Minister Brendan Nelson has said run, live and breathe our universities, and they have marked down the Minister’s plans for higher education,” she said.

Among the key problems identified by the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (AVCC) are: • Inadequate assistance for students from disadvantaged backgrounds; • Student loans capped at $50,000 and 6 per cent interest favour “those most able to repay” and “will not cover the cost of many undergraduate courses”; • Five-year study limits could disadvantage many legitimate students and undermine equity

and excellence; • A focus on full-time students straight from school at the expense of those entering university later in life; and • Inadequate government funding for higher education, tied to unwanted and unworkable

changes to workplace and governance practices.

Ms Macklin said the Howard Government’s proposals did not even begin to address the enormous unmet demand for university places identified by the AVCC.

“Each year 20,000 qualified young Australians are being denied a place at university and the changes outlined by the Howard Government do nothing to address this enormous problem.

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“They include just 2116 new places by 2007. The 24,883 places the government plans to convert to adequate funding levels are not new, just under-funded.”

Ms Macklin said vice-chancellors were concerned that instead of fostering diversity in higher education, the government’s changes would actually force universities into a straightjacket of rules and conditions.

“The Howard Government is trying to blackmail our universities. It is telling them that if they don’t put staff onto individual employment contracts they won’t get extra funding. No one wants teachers and researchers forced onto individual contracts except the ideological zealots in the government. It will certainly do nothing to improve the quality of education,” she said.

The AVCC also gave the thumbs down to proposed changes regarding international education. The committee found that additional charges proposed for universities and students outweighed any limited benefits from the changes.

“As the vice-chancellors have signalled today, the Howard Government’s flawed plans for higher education do nothing to secure the long-term future of our universities or to give more Australians the opportunity of a quality education.”

More information: Adrian Rollins, 0438 950 375