SCU vice chancellor Professor Peter Lee has thrown his support behind a government review that has backed the continuation of so-called ‘demand-driven’ university funding.
The funding is particularly beneficial to regional universities such as SCU, whose main option for growth is to increase the participation rate of students seeking tertiary education.
Speaking in his capacity as chair of the Regional Universities Network (RUN), Professor Peter Lee, said that he was delighted with the review’s main findings that the demand driven system should be maintained for bachelor places, and the system expanded to include sub-bachelor places, and post-graduate places in courses with clear community benefit and modest financial rewards such as teaching, nursing and some other health disciplines.
“These recommendations are consistent with RUN’s position, and, if adopted by the government, will ensure that regional universities can continue to work to increase the participation by regional Australians in higher education,” Professor Lee said.
“The reforms would be good for regional Australia. More highly skilled graduates are what our economy and communities need.
“RUN will continue to be committed to ensuring equity for all students and increased participation in higher education. Extension of the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places would allow universities to be more responsive to the needs of less academically prepared students.
But Professor Lee was critical of government plans to change the funding model, further expanding student loans while reducing government grants.
He said doubtful debts on the loan scheme would continue to mount unless government gave some consideration to moderating the rates of repayment.
“While the review has suggested charging a loan fee on the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) and reducing the commonwealth contribution, RUN advocates that HELP doubtful debt should be addressed,” Professor Lee said.
Savings from the latter would be complemented by pegging indexation of the earnings threshold for repaying HELP debt to the Consumer Price Index rather than average weekly earnings, as proposed in the Grattan Institute report Doubtful debt. The rising cost of student loans,’ he added.
“RUN urges the government to implement the review’s key recommendations in the coming budget of keeping the caps off and expanding the demand driven system to sub-bachelor places and some post-graduate disciplines.”