The Higher Education Legislation bill is currently being discussed in the House of Representatives today but much of the legislation still remains unclear to the sector including the Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations (CAPA). In the past, CAPA had supported the measure to even out allocation of Commonwealth Supported Places(CSP) for postgraduate coursework students however we can no longer do so.
The Shadow Minister for Education Tanya Pliberseck correctly stated this bill is about giving the Minister for Education a series of blank cheques for a number of random thought bubbles. It is clear that this “reform” package is nothing but a cover by the Minister for Education to get away with the cuts that his predecessor failed to force through.
CAPA has been in discussions with policy makers from the Group of Eight and The University of Melbourne and it is clear that no one really knows how aspects of this bill will be implemented. It is expected that some mythical extra level of bureaucracy will be put in place and could risk the independence of universities.
During the announcement of these reforms the question of the removal of 3000 postgraduate CSP was asked. An assurance was made that these places were “not being used” according to the Minister. Real reform would be to find a way to allocate these places NOT add another level of bureaucracy.
Like the 7.5% conditional commonwealth supported funding which is based on some mystery performance criteria the selection criteria of postgraduate commonwealth support remain unclear. Rather than just force the Higher Education bill through the house when people are distracted by a constitutional crisis perhaps the Education Minister should be told to revise and resubmit.
CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire says:
“I was told quite clearly that the 3000 postgraduate places that were being cut were not being used. But I could easily find 3000 and more Australian students that are begging for commonwealth support in their degrees”
“Many of the aspects of this bill seem to be there as an afterthought just to distract from another batch of higher education cuts and using student fees to fill a budget black hole.”
“I am more than happy to sit down with the Minister to discuss how we can adjust the way postgraduate support is assigned but not with a blank cheque and an increased level of costly bureaucracy”
For Comment: CAPA National President Peter Derbyshire
M: 0435 047 817