The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) welcomes the announcement of a clearly defined consultation process to deliver a much-needed pathway to higher education reform.

“The Options Paper delivered by the Minister marks a new era for higher education policy. We look forward to participating in the process,” said Renee Hindmarsh, ATN Executive Director.

“We hope the consultation will ensure adequate safeguards are in place to provide certainty and protection for students.

“As Australia’s largest non-commodities export and one of our key economic drivers, reform to this sector must be done in a systematic and coherent fashion.

“We are also pleased that the merry-go-round of the efficiency dividend will cease, with funding returning to the sector once and for all,” says Ms Hindmarsh.

However, ATN is concerned the previously announced 20% cut contained in the higher education budget remains. This is inconsistent with the whole-of-government narrative about creating a more innovative society.

The ATN also questions the wisdom of securing savings through the Higher Education Partnerships and Participation (HEPP) Programme, which is designed to ensure Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. It also supports disadvantaged students to ensure they are able to successfully complete their degree. 

“It is well known that tertiary graduates enjoy a higher earnings premium across their lifetime, and significantly contribute to their communities. Limiting the opportunity for disadvantaged communities to access support to complete their degree will be detrimental both to our society and our economy in the longer term.

“ATN universities have a deep commitment in supporting disadvantaged students, providing additional funds above the HEPP programme funds. Staff at our universities also contribute to scholarships and other support programmes.

“Cuts to the HEPP programme may provide a short-term fix to address the deficit, but in the long run it will inevitably harm the budget bottom line,” says Ms Hindmarsh.

However, ATN welcomes consultation on HEPP in the Options Paper, to ensure funds are targeted and used in the most effective manner.

“ATN also welcomes the discussion of expansion to university sub-bachelor places to further increase and support participation in the higher education sector.

“The demand-driven system has opened higher education to more Australians than ever before, we just need to ensure those who need the most help are given every chance to succeed,” Ms Hindmarsh says.

Media contact: Renee Hindmarsh Mobile: 0416 265 038