2002 – Higher Education at the Crossroads

Attachment: CAPA Paper

On 26 April 2002, the Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson, released the overview paper Higher Education at the Crossroads, to initiate debate on higher education reform. An electronic copy of this paper is available at http://www.dest.gov.au/crossroads. The Minister will also release a series of discussion papers focusing on specific issues throughout the year. Submissions are invited on the issues raised by all papers. The Minister has stated that submissions will be used by his Higher Education Review Reference Group to create a package of reforms. These will be presented to Cabinet by the beginning of 2003, in time for implementation in the 2003-2004 Federal Budget.

This reform process could potentially change the Australian higher education system as dramatically as the Dawkins reforms. Higher Education at the Crossroads questions the very idea of a university and proposes a range of policy options that could dismantle the Unified National System. Reform options canvassed in the paper could result in the concentration of research in a small number of Australian universities, the extension of deregulated fees to undergraduate places, and the creation of an alternative shorter, cheaper degree structure for equity groups. The Higher Education Review Reference Group is dominated by senior university management and representatives of the business community, and lacks any student representation.

For these reasons it is important for Postgraduate Student Associations (PSAs) to take the opportunity to present their views on higher education in Australia by making a submission to the review before the deadline of 28 June 2002. As the national peak body for postgraduate students, CAPA will be making a detailed submission to the review, but it is also important that as many student voices as possible are heard during the review process. An outline of the CAPA submission will be distributed to all PSAs for their information by the end of May. Any PSA requiring information or other help for their submission is most welcome to contact the CAPA Office on 9650 7666 or to email the CAPA Research Officer at Hilary.Pearse@capa.edu.au.

A summary of Higher Education at the Crossroads and a discussion of points of interest for postgraduate students is provided below to assist PSAs with their submissions. Please note that Higher Education at the Crossroads is structured in five chapters, with the substantive content of the paper being found in the fourth chapter, ‘A framework for consultation’. This chapter is divided into nine sections, each of which focuses on one broad higher eduction issue, with consultative questions provided at the end of each section. Submissions may respond to the consultative questions but are also free to address issues not covered in the paper.