Universities Australia calls for fees overhaul and end to reliance on overseas students

“The 50 per cent pass rule is, therefore, not only ineffectual, but also at odds with the equity goals shared by government and universities,” the submission says.

National Union of Students president Bailey Riley said the union also wanted the repeal of the fee changes and the 50 per cent rule, arguing they both made higher education less accessible.

Most students base their study choices on career aspirations, not price signals, the National Union of Students says.

Most students base their study choices on career aspirations, not price signals, the National Union of Students says.Credit: Dave Tease

Riley said the fee changes were also ineffectual in their primary aim of influencing enrolment choice.

“We don’t believe students will choose their future careers based on how much debt there is in a course,” she said.

“We think students should have as much equity as possible in choosing a course, and this pushes them in a way that doesn’t inspire any sense of equity. University students are not benefiting from it in any way.”

The Albanese government’s universities accord is the first broad review of Australia’s higher education system since 2008, looking at issues including funding, access, affordability and matching education with skills needs.

Tuesday marks the deadline for submissions to the accord panel, chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane.

Universities Australia’s submission also calls on the federal government to work towards replacing the reliance on international student fees to partially subsidise research costs with a model that fully funds university research. The current model is vulnerable to economic shocks because revenue from fees can fluctuate wildly, creating a sovereign risk to Australia’s research capability, the submission argues.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said the nation’s ability to respond to challenges and opportunities would be measured by the standard of research and development universities perform on its behalf.


“If we want to be a serious research nation, we’ve got to fund research properly and quickly,” Jackson said. “Government funding is falling while the cost of doing research is rising, forcing universities to rely on international student fee revenue to support these vital endeavours. This is not sustainable.”

Coalition education spokesperson Sarah Henderson said the university sector “plays a critical role in driving Australia’s economic prosperity but faces little accountability for the $20 billion and more it receives annually in government funding.

“A key test for the Albanese government is to ensure that taxpayer funding is appropriately tied to university performance, and it is disappointing this is not reflected in [Universities Australia’s] submission … While we can be very proud of our universities, they must be held to account in the national interest when they deliver poor course quality and student outcomes, and thousands of research papers which fail to see the light of day.”

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