The National Party is demanding changes to the Federal Government’s planned overhaul of the university system, warning a “glaring” design flaw could leave country students worse off.
- The changes would significantly increase the cost of some courses while slashing fees for others
- The Nationals are concerned the fee changes will discourage students from pursuing mental health careers
- An exposure draft of the legislation is now available for public consultation
The Coalition Government announced in June it planned to double the cost of humanities degrees, while slashing the course fees of “job-relevant” subjects.
Nationals MP and Minister for Regional Education, Andrew Gee, said his party, the junior party in the Coalition, was concerned the changes would deter students from studying social studies and behavioural science courses, which were set to become significantly more expensive.
He said that was a “glaring and potentially detrimental design flaw”.
“Given country Australia has been devastated by bushfires, floods, drought and the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that regional communities have easy access to mental health services and support,” he said in a statement.
“The proposed reforms, in their current state, recommend that a number of social work, behavioural science and mental health disciplines be classified in the humanities cluster, which is the highest-paying cluster for students.
“We believe this would only serve to further increase the maldistribution of mental health workers in country Australia.”
Mr Gee also warned a $5,000 tertiary access payment (TAP) for rural and remote students who relocated for university straight after year 12 would drive young people away from their communities.
“This could result in a loss of enrolments for country universities, which are already operating in thin and lean markets,” he said.
“The Nationals will be seeking changes to the design of the TAP to ensure that this measure is targeted at supporting country students as well as country universities.”
Mr Gee said the party settled its position on Monday following consultation with regional universities and other stakeholders.
He also called for students who enrolled before the January 1, 2021 introduction of the changes to be exempt from paying higher fees, regardless of how long they took to finish their courses.
A spokesperson for the Education Department said there was no expiry date in the draft legislation, which was released today.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the draft bill was now open to public consultation.
“We will consider all feedback as part of drafting the final legislation that is put to Parliament,” he said.
How much students can expect to pay
|1||Teaching, clinical psychology, English, maths, nursing, languages, agriculture||$3,700|
|2||Allied health, other health, architecture, IT, creative arts, engineering, environmental studies, science||$7,700|
|3||Medical, dental, veterinary science||$11,300|
|4||Law & economics, management & commerce, society & culture, humanities, communications, behavioural science||$14,500|