Local, Independant and Effective

Question Without Notice - Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne - Higher Education Reforms

Posted February 10, 2015

 

CATHY McGOWAN (Indi) (14:50): My question is to the Minister for Education. Minister, your amended higher
education bill includes a minimalist structural adjustment fund. Can you please give details of how the fund will
be allocated, how its impact will be measured and the expected outcomes, and will you give an assurance to the
House that regional students, families, businesses and employees will not be disadvantaged by this legislation?

Mr PYNE (Sturt—Leader of the House and Minister for Education and Training) (14:51): I can certainly give
that assurance to the member for Indi. I can certainly give her that assurance that rural and regional businesses,
parents, students and families will not be disadvantaged, because in fact one of the main purposes of the
government's higher education reform bill is to support disadvantaged students and disadvantaged communities,
and we are doing that in a number of ways. One of those the member has mentioned—the structural adjustment
fund. I know that recently she conducted an educational forum in the La Trobe campus at Wodonga, and
many of the people who presented and asked questions at that forum talked about the transformative impact
of the government's higher education reform bill, particularly John Dewar, the vice-chancellor of La Trobe
University, who talked about the massive expansion of the pathways programs, the pathways places, that would
hugely advantage rural and regional Australia and give young people, who often use those programs to get into
undergraduate degrees, an enormous boost. Typically, pathways programs are used by first-in-family university
goers and people from rural and regional backgrounds or urban disadvantaged students. Through that expansion
of the pathways programs, which will not happen without the reforms, we are supporting rural and regional
Australia.
The member also mentioned the structural adjustment fund. As part of the new reform bill, picking up the
concerns and interests of the crossbench in the Senate, and also my own colleagues here on the coalition
side, and the crossbench in the House of Representatives, we have introduced a $100 million over three years
structural adjustment fund. That is to support those universities that are in areas where there is limited capacity
to expand their revenue base and they are probably not doing the expensive research that would allow them
to take full advantage of the government's reform agenda. Through the structural adjustment fund, we will be
able to support those universities—typically ones like Charles Sturt University, Southern Cross, the Regional
Universities Network campuses. The Regional Universities Network, which represents almost all of the regional
universities in Australia, said:
… RUN considers that the only way the sector can maintain quality and remain internationally competitive is
through the deregulation of student fees …
The RUN universities, like all universities across Australia, recognise that the government's reform agenda in
higher education is transformative and it is vital for disadvantaged students in particular to make our system the
best university system in the world, with some of the best universities in the world.