Labor’s lock on higher education this election

The coalition is either out of ideas or has lost interest

At last, the government has a higher education funding commitment, sort of, with Treasurer Josh Frydenberg promising $15m for a Monash U-Collingwood Football Clubsports and medical research hub.”

“Victoria Sport will include an education and training facility, treatment clinics, performance research laboratories, facilities specifically for women’s sports, a sports museum and a visitor centre,” Mr Frydenberg promises.

In contrast Labor, universities spokesman Louise Pratt announced Saturday yet another higher education equity programme, promising $3.45m for La Trobe UVC John Dewar welcomed the commitment, saying if implemented it “would help ensure more people get the opportunity of a university education.”  University of Newcastle VC Alex Zelinsky also backed a Labor promise on the weekend, telling the city’s newspaper that uncapping student places would ease funding pressure.

There is a bit of this programme-not-party endorsing about, with HE lobbies and leaders backing Labor commitments but not actually urging everybody to Vote 1 Bill – a distinction probably lost on the coalition. Mr Frydenberg and Industry, Science and Technology Minister Karen Andrews aside, the conservatives appear to have given up on votes from uni teachers and researchers. This is understandable, Labor’s university infrastructure, research and equity announcements, plus its commitment to restore demand driven system has given it a lock on education as a campaign issue.

The National Tertiary Education Union, makes the point. It is hosting a Q&A at Murdoch U on Thursday, “to hear first-hand major political priorities for the future of tertiary education in Australia.” Senator Pratt is speaking. So is Greens senator for WA Jordon Steele-John. That’s it. Maybe the coalition wasn’t asked, maybe candidates were washing their hair.


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