Hailed as “a victory for common sense”, the Australian Senate has rejected the government’s bid to get students to pay more for their higher education starting from next year.
The opposition, joined by other minor parties in the Senate, refused to pass all of the government bill and called for the higher education sector to be reviewed instead, according to University World News.
Leader of minority party Nick Xenophon Team (NXT), from whom the federal government needed support to put their plan into action, said “it would be wrong to support the cuts proposed by the government”.
“We have too many highly qualified young people with PhD degrees stacking supermarket shelves or making lattes. We need to do better than this.”
According to NXT, a full review of the country’s higher education system is necessary before they will be willing to vote “yes” to the Bill.
The Bill has proposed to slash up to AUD2.8 billion of government’s funds to be channelled to its universities and making students compensate for the shortfall. A fee hike of 7.5 percent was proposed and graduates would have to repay their fees once they started earning AUD42,000 annually, instead of the current AUD52,000.
The government had planned to replace the subsidies with loans for permanent residents and New Zealand citizens as well as by giving out scholarships for postgraduate coursework places.
Post-announcement, Australia’s youth and education stakeholders have voiced their disapproval with what the new budget has in store for higher education sector.
Crikey’s political editor wrote, “What is clear is that next week’s budget looms as a continuation of this government’s war on young people…This is an economic war on our youth, and one they should never forgive us for.”
The move was unpopular with its citizens too, with more than half saying they were either unhappy with the government’s move to save AUD2.8 billion or disapproves in the move to make students pay higher fees, according to a Guardian Essentials poll.
Victory and opportunity
But there is cause to celebrate now, after the Senate’s decision this Thursday.
Universities Australia hailed the Senate’s decision, calling it a “victory for common sense” and commending the NXT for urging a comprehensive review of the country’s post-school education.
“This is an opportunity for government to hit the reset button and stop, once and for all, treating our university sector as a target for budget savings, when in fact it is an investment in Australia’s future,” its chief executive Belinda Robinson said.
“(NXT) have sent a very strong message that pulling public investment out of our university system is not the way to build a stronger, more internationally competitive tertiary education system.”
Education Minister Simon Birmingham, on the other hand, was appalled that the “troika of Labor, Greens and Xenophon parties were unwilling to make even modest reductions in the rate of spending growth the government had planned”.
“Under our reforms, spending on universities would still have increased 23 percent over the next four years,” Birmingham said.