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22 Universities Have Come Out Against University Fee Deregulation

Four are in favour.

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The introduction of partial fee deregulation for universities was first flagged by the Turnbull government during the May budget. The PM confirmed during the election campaign that his government planned to introduce the measure, which would allow universities to set the fees for some of their degrees.

Julian Smith / AAPIMAGE

The cost of these "flagship courses" would be uncapped, meaning universities could charge up to 20% of their total student body as much as they like for their degrees.

Letting universities charge more for degrees would offset the government's $2.5 billion cut to the higher education sector.

The government has proposed that an independent body such as the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission monitor the cost of these flagship courses. It aims to uncap fees from 2018.

But a majority of Australia's 39 universities have rejected the proposals, blaming a breakdown in trust between the government and the sector.

22 universities have written to the education minister asking the government not to pursue plans to deregulate fees.

Brenton Edwards / Via Facebook: UniSA

Against the proposed changes are:

- Australian National University, ACT

- Central Queensland University, QLD

- Charles Sturt University, NSW

- Curtin University, WA

- Federation University of Australia, VIC

- La Trobe University, VIC

- Monash University, VIC

- Queensland University of Technology, QLD

- RMIT, VIC

- Southern Cross University, NSW

- Swinburne University, VIC

- University of Adelaide, SA

- University of Melbourne, VIC

- University of New England, NSW

- University of New South Wales, NSW

- University of Queensland, QLD

- University of South Australia, SA

- University of Southern Queensland, QLD

- University of Sunshine Coast, QLD

- University of Sydney, NSW

- University of Technology Sydney, NSW

- University of Western Australia, WA

The Group of Eight, Australian Technology Network and Regional Universities Network have all spoken out against partial deregulation, which they fear will create a "two tiered system" that locks out disadvantaged students.

Charles Sturt agreed, saying flagship courses are "likely to increase the cost to students of delivering vital skills and qualifications needed by rural and regional Australian economies and/or act as a disincentive for potential students to undertake such courses".

La Trobe's submission outlined their "significant concerns" with flagship courses, and instead recommended "committing to a net sustainable increase in university resourcing through reengineering of the financing model at a system level, rather than the narrowly defined flagship model".

The Innovation Research Universities is the only group to have voiced their support for deregulation.

BuzzFeed

Flinders, Griffith, James Cook and Charles Darwin universities* make up the IRU.

"Rather than simply reject the concept IRU supports the idea of some flexibility in charges tied to additional investment in a course as an option for students", their submission says.

"To be viable universities would need to ensure that students considering whether to pay more under the proposal would have clear information about the extra benefits they will receive in return for the higher charge, and evidence of its provision."

If there is a 20% reduction in government funding, as flagged in the discussion paper released at the May Budget, IRU universities want an increase to the maximum capped contribution made by students.

*CORRECTION

Murdoch University and La Trobe are also members of the IRU. Murdoch told BuzzFeed News they did not make a submission to the inquiry and had no position on deregulation; La Trobe is against it.

Seven universities told BuzzFeed News they have no position on deregulation or flagship courses.

Murdoch / Via Facebook: MurdochUniversity

Victoria University, Bond, Canberra, Notre Dame, Macquarie, Murdoch and the University of Tasmania refused to give a position on the proposed changes.

"There is little mention of students and any benefit flagship courses may have for students is not clear," Victoria University wrote in their submission.

They want a clear and agreed definition of a "flagship course" before any decisions are made.

Bond University told BuzzFeed News they don't have a position on the flagship proposal because it would have "no impact on our programs because we don’t receive any Commonwealth funding for tuition fees". The University of Tasmania also did not have a position.

Macquarie University welcomed some changes but noted that flagship courses aren't necessary. Their only position on deregulation was a concern it would involve "no end of bureaucratic monitoring and supervision".

Six universities have unknown positions.

The University of Wollongong and Edith Cowan sent through their thoughts but have chosen not to comment publicly, and Western Sydney plan on making a late submission.

University of Newcastle, Deakin and Australian Catholic University had not replied to BuzzFeed News at the time of publishing.

Alice Workman is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Canberra.

Contact Alice Workman at alice.workman@buzzfeed.com.

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