Australia’s universities, already a $15 billion service export success story, are being “unshackled” by the federal government.
By that, Treasurer Joe Hockey means they are now free to put any price they like on a course, allowing them to compete on the world stage.
And that means there’s no doubt a lot of local Australian students will soon start paying more to get a degree.
The government says $1 out of every $5 of additional revenue raised by higher education providers from fees will be used to set up Commonwealth scholarships.
And from January 2016, the Commonwealth’s contribution towards course fees for new students will be cut 20% on average.
“Our changes to higher education will allow universities to set their own tuition fees from 2016,” Hockey says.
“For students already studying, existing arrangements will remain until the end of 2020.
“With greater autonomy, universities will be free to compete and improve the quality of the courses they offer,” he says.
Some course fees will rise and some may fall.
“To maintain fair access, students will still be eligible for concessional higher education loans,” Hockey says.
“As is the case at the moment, students will not have to pay a single dollar upfront. Fees will be repayable when students are in the workforce earning over $50,000 a year. “
Higher education has been one of the most successful new export industries to emerge in the last generation, with education now Australia’s fourth largest export earner.
However, the sector operates in a highly competitive and globalised market, where overseas universities are rapidly building quality and global reputations.
The budget papers say full deregulation of the higher education sector will be achieved by removing fee caps and expanding the demand-driven system to bachelor and sub-bachelor courses at all higher education providers.
The so-called sandstone universities, such as the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne, will be able to charge more because there’s big demand for places as shown by the high academic scores needed for most courses.
The Government will also support those learning a trade by providing concessional Trade Support Loans of up to $20,000 over a four year apprenticeship.
There will also be new funding for non-degree courses such as diplomas and associate degrees.
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