Deregulation of student contributions

Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young and Chancellor Professor Gareth Evans have called for the deregulation of student contributions so Australian institutions can offer courses which better compete with those on offer from the world's best universities.

In an opinion piece published in The Australian,  they said the proposal would provide the best outcome for students, and would allow universities to focus on delivering a quality education comparable to universities such as Harvard and Stanford in the United States.

"We want to provide an education that is comparable to that offered by the great universities of the world," Professor Young said.

"In an ideal world, government would fund that. But we know in the current circumstances it won't.

"So we propose a potential policy solution to make sure ANU and other Australian universities can offer the best education possible for our students. It is a policy solution that is part of a broader discussion about funding universities."

The proposal from Professor Young and Professor Evans, if accepted by government, should not affect current students or lead to a sudden increase in fees for current students.

"If government were to make this sort of change, we would strongly advocate a 'grandfathering' of any legislation to ensure that currently enrolled students will not suddenly find their education is more costly," Professor Young said.

He said any move to deregulate student contributions should also include ongoing access to HECS for all domestic students, and a substantial growth in scholarships, to guarantee university access to students from less-wealthy families.

"We believe very strongly that the only barrier to entry to ANU should be ability - not ability to pay," Professor Young said.

"The current system encourages universities to cram as many students as possible into a classroom and to teach them as cheaply as possible. That is not what we want for ANU. It is not what an ANU education is. We are proud that ANU has the lowest student to staff ratio in Australia.

"We want ANU to offer an educational experience that is unique in Australia, one that goes well beyond the classroom. We want an ANU education to be amongst the finest in the world."

Professor Young said the proposals will be part of a national debate following the release of the Kemp/Norton review of demand-driven higher education funding, and any changes would require government legislation.

He said the ANU position was broadly supported by the Vice-Chancellors of Australia's leading universities, the Group of Eight.

The full article by Professor Young and Professor Evans is available here.

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