Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis said he supports fee deregulation out of “pragmatism not enthusiasm” and that universities are now unable to operate solely on public funding.
In an email to staff this morning, Professor Davis said that the recent “continuing” budget cuts have meant that universities need more than just government funding in order to operate.
“The University of Melbourne does not support cuts to public funding of universities,” the email said. “However, along with peak body Universities Australia, we have expressed support for extended price deregulation.
“This flows from pragmatism not enthusiasm. Constrained and unreliable funding from governments of all persuasions now makes it difficult for public universities to operate on public funding alone. The continuing budget cuts of the past 18 months, imposed on tertiary education by both sides of politics, make the choice for deregulation hard to avoid.”
Professor Davis said he had been in Canberra this week with other Group of Eight universities. They spoke to members of parliament about amending sections of the bill.
“We pressed the argument for rethinking aspects of the government’s proposals, in particular the proposed bond rate of interest on student loans, while acknowledging the case for deregulation,” Professor Davis’ email said.
Professor Davis has previously stated he was in favour of fee deregulation. However he emphasised in his email that doing so was a response to the threat of funding cuts.
“It is a complex package, and requires a nuanced reply,” he wrote. “In responding, the University of Melbourne seeks not only to safeguard and improve the quality of teaching and research, but to prepare students for a life of contribution to the community. This starts with equality in selection and should mark the entire experience on campus.”
The Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 was introduced into Parliament yesterday by Education Minister Christopher Pyne. Mr Pyne said the bill would help Australian universities compete on a global scale.