Are you at university and considering a Masters of PhD? Planning to go to university or return for postgrad? Know someone at university? Then the changes the Abbott Government wants to make to higher education will have a big impact on your future.
The changes to higher education proposed by the Abbott Government include:
- Deregulation, allowing universities and other higher education and vocational training institutions such as TAFE to set their own tuition fees
- Increases in the interest rates for student HECS/HELP loans
- Reducing the repayment threshold for HELP debts
- Cutting $173.7m in funding over three years to the Research Training Scheme allowing universities to charge research students fees
- 20% cut in Commonwealth funding to universities
For example, if you’re currently a domestic postgraduate research student you’re able to study for free but under the Abbott Government’s proposed changes this would be increased up to $3,900 a year. The maximum payment will apply to courses the Government has deemed ‘high cost’, including medicine, science and engineering – some of our most critical research fields. Most research students study full time leaving little time to work and rely on scholarships and grants for their income leaving little spare change.
We need to stand up for the right for accessible and affordable higher education for everyone.
Deregulating universities risks ‘Americanising’ Australia’s higher education sector by allowing universities and other institutions to set their own fees. What concerns most commentators are that universities will become increasingly unaffordable with fees of $100,000 leaving students with crippling debt. HELP debts will also be charged higher interest rates so your debt will take even longer to pay off.
According to research by the National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) a debt of $75,000 would take 23 years to repay a total of $99,000 – including $24,000 interest. And this is only a projection of a three-year accounting degree under the Government’s post-Budget arrangements.
The Labor Party, Australian Greens and even Clive Palmer have criticized the Government’s policy. Deputy leader of the Greens Adam Bandt described the Government as “vandals that want to destroy what is good about this country”, sentiments echoed by thousands of protestors around Australia.
Clive Palmer, renown for his sometimes questionable views, said the Palmer United Party Senators will continue to oppose the higher education overhaul and that there was “absolutely nothing” in the package he could support.
Tertiary organisations, like the NTEU, student unions and associations have spoken out against the proposed changes leading rallies in capital cities around the country.
The Guardian Australia published an article earlier this week pointing out that under his own proposed policy Education Minister Christopher Pyne after graduating at 21 would be paying off his HECS debt until he was 64. That’s nearly a lifetime of debt for only a few years of study.
The future of higher education in Australia is facing major challenges by the Abbott Government. If we want education and research to continue to be the future of our country we need to stand up for the right for accessible and affordable higher education for everyone.
Regardless of your political affiliation get involved, ask your student union what they’re doing, write to your local MP and attend a protest in your city.
You can choose to sign the Labor Party’s petition against the Abbott Government’s proposed changes to higher education here. Or for more information the NTEU website has an easy to read fact sheet on the Government’s proposed changes.
It’s time to take a stand.