No surrender from uni lobbies on the student-place funding bill

The Group of Eight joins other university lobbies in suggesting the Senate pass the government’s student place funding bill – as long as it is amended in ways they approve  of

The Go8 calls for;

* adding indexation of more funding categories to the bill

* modifying funding so that university funding per place is not reduced for disciplines where student contributions are increased

* making the existing maximum student contribution the ceiling for UG payments

* dropping the (said to be unnecessary) student protection measures

The Innovative Research Universities extends its position

The IRU has presented multiple analyses of the government’s plan since Minister Tehan’s June announcement but while it “supports the need for the package overall” (CMM August 18) it has consistently called for changes (CMM August 26). The group notably wants Commonwealth funding for more students, but with a cap on student fees set at the existing maximum. It also calls for removing new regulatory requirements which argues are not needed for universities.

The IRU adds a new argument against the foundation of the billreducing the overall Commonwealth contribution to the funding of student places. IRU warns this will make it harder for universities to do what the government requires – teach, research and engage with the community.

The bill as it stands, “would continue the decade long trend to transform the major Commonwealth funding programme from one that uses student numbers as the guide to estimate the proportion of available funding each university should receive, to tying funding allocated directly to its use for student education,” the IRU warns.

“The alignment of funding driven by student numbers to funding expended on students may look sensible. However, it ignores how universities are to achieve the three-part goal Government has set.”

The IRU accordingly recommends the Commonwealth keep the existing level of its funding per student place, while keeping a cap on the maximum charged students.

This isn’t a surrender

These proposed amendments are broadly in-line with those from other university groups and are presented around the traps as peak bodies giving in to the government.

They aren’t.

Certainly, universities want the student growth funding in the bill but they still oppose three of its core purposes; making law/business/humanities students pay more for their degree, making providers teach STEM for less per place and introducing regulations designed for voced providers.

This isn’t a surrender – it’s an offer of terms that universities can live with. Certainly, the position of university groups is better for the government than demands the bill be rejected by the Senate. But it is now down to cross bench senators to decide how much the government should give up for them to pass the bill and if they do for Minister Tehan to determine how much of the savings the bill was designed to deliver he is willing to lose.