Photo - Nathan Brown

Group of 8 back down on higher ed reform

by Claudia Long | @ClaudiaLongsays

Education Minister Christopher Pyne said he’s committed to reforming the tertiary education sector despite losing the backing of the Group of Eight (Go8) this morning.

The group of Australia’s top eight leading universities was one of the strongest supporters of the Minister’s reforms but outlined their new position in a statement on the Go8’s website this morning.

Saying they still support fee deregulation as “the only long term solution”, the Go8 stated that a solution to opposition from the senate still needs to be found.

The group cited a “funding crisis”following the senate blocking the legislation for a second time last week, as their primary reason for changing their position.

They have also floated the idea of having a “de-politicised” review into the tertiary system as an alternative to the current push by the government to deregulate fees.

“A review of this type has the potential to illustrate for the public and our politicians in a much clearer way what currently faces our sector” the Go8 said.

Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson told Catalyst that, “we haven’t changed our position and we’ve continued to support deregulation”.

“Our view is the Senate is unlikely to support the package a third time around,” Thomson said, “and even if it did so it would be heavily compromised and wouldn’t be in essence what it should”.

Labor has criticised the Minister for continuing to push the reforms calling the situation “yet another embarrassing defeat”.

“The best thing for Christopher Pyne to do now is to scrap his unfair and unnecessary plan,” a spokesman for Shadow Education Minister Kim Carr told Catalyst in a written statement.

“Labor is committed to working with the sector to build a fair, sustainable and high quality university system,” the spokesman said.

Labor, Green and Independent Senators have continued to voice their opposition to fee deregulation in light of the Go8’s announcement.

Independent Senator Nick Xenophon, who has twice voted down the reforms, says the Go8 have accepted the “political reality” of fee deregulation reform.

“This is a reality check,” Xenophon says, “and it seems the minister is yet to face reality”.

“We need to have a debate and begin looking at practical outcomes rather than narrow ideology” the Senator told Catalyst this morning.

National Union of Students President Rose Steele has welcomed the Go8’s new stance saying it, “just shows that from day one these reforms had no support”.

“This is just a continued lack of support,” she said ,”it’s really positive seeing more people in the sector come out against these reforms”.

RMIT University is not a member of the Go8 however some students have supported the Go8’s change in position.

RMIT Student Union President Himasha Fonseka says today’s events are “an indication to Minister Pyne that it’s not really worth pursuing this reform”.

RMIT is not a member of the Go8 but Fonseka says he is still “interested to see Christopher Pyne’s reaction to the Go8’s decision”.

“I’m disappointed about the approaches he has taken so far,” Fonseka says, “he needs to take a more considered approach”.

Catalyst contacted the office of Education Minister Christopher Pyne however he was unavailable for comment.

Photo by Nathan Brown

Catalyst has been the student publication of RMIT University since 1944. We may be older than your parents but we’re still going strong!

Sign up for Catalyst Magazine

Get the latest on what's happening
* = required field