Policy before the bill was blown up

Yesterday Dan Tehan announced $326m for additional student places, “next year and beyond” plus undertakings on secure funding. He could still deliver

The education minister said the money would fund 12 000 new university places next year, on top of the 20 000 already in the funding bill about to be before the Senate. So, the minister’s commitment to 100 000 new UG places by 2030 now appears to be 112 000.

Mr Tehan also announced funding-protections in the bill which universities had called for, including specified minimums for basic grants to universities which will have specific parliamentary protection.

But there is no mention of a recommendation from the government-controlled Senate committee that the bill be reviewed in two years.

Reaction: Universities Australia was quick to back the announcement, “the decision recognises a surge in applications to study as the pandemic hits the job market and drives up unemployment.” As was the Regional Universities Network, which welcomed the new places and protection for funding.

However, Alison Barnes from the National Tertiary Education Union was not impressed; “this is a short-term measure with a single objective of getting this unsustainable, unfair and incoherent bill through the Senate.”

What’s next: If Mr Tehan’s legislation fails in the Senate, demand for UG places will not disappear and the government is all but locked into providing more places, whether or not there are savings from increasing some student fees, to pay for them. Won’t the Treasurer be pleased!