Karen Lomas
August 4, 2014

Tertiary Deregulation in Australia


The issue of government deregulation of tertiary fees is now a topic of concern and conversation in our community. We will not know whether the Senate will pass this bill, in full, until October. So watch this space!

The discussion around possible deregulation of tertiary fees is speculative. If this goes ahead it is possible that fees at universities will increase, and that the ‘Group of Eight’ universities, including University of Melbourne and Monash, will have the most significant price increases. It is believed that these universities will determine the overall market conditions for fees, according to an article; “My guess is the sandstone unis will raise their fees a long way and the less reputed unis won’t be far behind them” (Gittins, May 31, 2014).

Other discussion in the media surrounds the issue of just how much an undergraduate degree will cost? Figures vary between $12 – $16000 a year, and others contend that fees could amount to $120,000 in debt by the end of a course.  Examples of modelling of course fees are as follows: Nursing would climb from between $18, 000 and $22,000 to $40,000.  A medical degree would increase from between$63, 000 and $80,000 to $180,000. There will also be changes as to how repayments can be made, as the government proposes that students in the future will repay  their loans with  up to 6 per cent interest (up from 2.9 per cent currently). Furthermore, it has been suggested that deregulation will create more degree choices but most of these providers will not be well-known institutions.

Other modelling of the proposed initiatives suggests that people who take time out of the workforce for caring responsibilities will be worse off, as their loan repayments will be inflation indexed. This may be a negative prospect for people on lower incomes who may be more averse to debt and less able to make payments.

So what does this mean for our students? Irrespective of the changes, students must apply increased diligence in their research on courses. It is more important that ever to perceive a degree as a product that you are purchasing in an ever increasing market place. Thus, considerations of the quality of the degree (for instance, the rankings of a university may be a critical factor for you if you intend to study science, as many world rankings are based on  the quality and reputation of research at the university). Other factors may be the quality of the course; what majors are available; can you combine two majors? Are you able to specialise in an area of interest? Does the course have built in overseas exchanges, or the opportunity of an exchange? Can you start or continue a language to give you a practical global edge on your career?

Is there a pathway into your ideal course? Does the course have available scholarships both on entry and once you are in the course? Does the university have quality clubs and societies so that you may demonstrate your teamwork and leadership skills for potential employers?

In the past, a university degree was synonymous with a job and a career. Nowadays, young people will have to create opportunities both within their degree and beyond their degree. They must consider the value added criteria that an employer is going to consider when they employ a graduate. We need to encourage students to be entrepreneurial in building their careers and seeking and creating experiences that encompasses: community/volunteer work, work experience, overseas exchange, and team work and leadership examples. A degree is only the beginning of a career; it does not and will not necessarily define a career.

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