What’s really wrong with the Tehan plan for unis

An all-star team from Uni Melbourne goes granular in pointing to problems in the Tehan student funding bill and spells out the big one

Authors* from the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education set out issues in four parts of the draft legislation, including;

* anomalies in grandfathering existing students

* “the minister will have discretion over the amount of Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding payable to any higher education provider, with no legislative guarantee that the amount will at a minimum be indexed or not reduced”

* uncertainty over process for the Indigenous, Rural and Low SES Attainment Fund in 2021.

What alarms them most is the proposed raft of rules in Schedule Five of the draft, originally developed to deal with the VET FEE-HELP shambles, but which now “risk some potentially adverse and unintended consequences for the operation of universities.”

In particular, they point to;

* a requirement that universities assess a student’s suitability for a unit before enrolling them, “this could be interpreted as requiring universities to assess every student for every unit of study for each year of their degree”

* “ministerial powers,” “imply constraints on university autonomy that may have unintended consequences”

* “new forms of oversight” that appear to duplicate functions of the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency

And then there is the profound one. The authors warn;

“The draft bill makes universities liable for a wide range of civil penalties, which alters the relationship between universities and government. This fundamental change has not been extensively articulated in the informational material accompanying the exposure draft.”

* Authors are, Gwilym Croucher, Frank Larkins, William Locke, Ian Marshman, Vin Massaro, James Waghorne and Mark Warburton