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Byron Shire
March 2, 2021

Turnbull govt dumps contentious university reforms

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Federal education minister Simon Birmingham
Federal education minister Simon Birmingham

The new Turnbull government has dropped its plan to allow universities to set their own fees from next year.

Fairfax Media reported this morning that education and training minister Simon Birmingham will announce later today that he will not reintroduce the government’s higher education bill into Parliament for another vote this year.

The minister said that any changes to university fees will now come into effect in 2017 at the earliest, after the next federal election.

Former education minister Christopher Pyne had insisted the bill, which would deregulate university fees and cut course funding by 20 per cent, would be reintroduced this year after his reforms were twice knocked back by the Senate.

But new minister Senator Birmingham says that ‘with only three months left in 2015, it is necessary to give both universities and students certainty about what the higher education funding arrangements for 2016 will be’.

In the Fairfax Media report, Senator Birmingham, who will announce the move in a speech to the University of Melbourne, said ‘any reforms, should they be legislated, would not commence until 2017 at the earliest’.

Senator Birmingham said the government was ‘accepting reality’ that the reforms would not pass the Senate in their current form.

But he said the government’s policies officially remain in place until cabinet decides otherwise.

Senator Birmingham said that as someone who was educated in government schools in low socio-economic areas and whose parents never attended university, he was ‘resolutely committed to equitable access’ to higher education.
Although the government has shelved its reforms, Senator Birmingham said Australia’s higher education funding system is not perfect and needs reform and suggested the government remains in favour of its plan to extend federal funding to private colleges, TAFEs and associate degree programs.

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