Farrago talks higher ed: Fee deregulation

Friday, 16 May, 2014


Words by Michelle See-Tho


You’ve probably heard the term ‘fee deregulation’ thrown around a little bit lately.

The government is doing it, the university is doing it, students don’t like it. But what is it?

In the past

Tertiary education in Australia costs a certain amount of money to cover things like computers, classroom upkeep, other student services such as libraries, and staff wages. Under the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS), the government pays for part of the cost, and the rest is a loan students repay through tax when they start earning a certain amount of money. The government set the fees for each of these.

The state used to cover the majority of the cost.

That might be why some students feel that education is free—there are no upfront costs. You don’t feel like you’re paying for your course while you’re doing it.


The Commission of Audit found the government had lost money through the scheme. Thus the Abbott government has increased student contributions to cover these losses. The Budget includes an increase in student contributions to HECS.

But what is fee deregulation, really?

Put simply, to ‘deregulate’ is to remove state control of something. So while the government used to manage university fees, it has now let go. Universities will be able to set their own fees for courses. They might do so according to many factors, including the number of students enrolled or the need for facilities.

Will my fees increase?

The real answer to this is maybe. No one knows at this stage whether fees will increase, or by how much.

However, HECS will still exist. Students will not be forced to pay upfront fees.