The Group of Eight universities have released a policy paper commenting on the Federal Government’s Higher Education Support Act Amendment (Demand-Driven System and Other Measures) Bill, currently before Parliament, which will uncap the supply of Commonwealth supported places (CSPs) in universities, as recommended by the Bradley Review.


The legislation qualifies the commitment to uncap places by setting up mechanisms to limit growth in places and Commonwealth spending, should this become necessary in the future


While the Group of Eight’s paper regards this as ‘sensible public policy’ to control fiscal impact and poorly planned growth, it expresses concern that “the Bill continues to rely completely on the public university sector to accommodate growth in demand at common funding rates.”


“A more effective policy framework would adopt Bradley’s further recommendations to open access to CSPs to a wider range of providers, and would reconfigure both Commonwealth and student contributions to provide for flexibility, choice and value for the student’s and the Government’s dollar.”


The paper suggests  that to achieve a more open and competitive system CSPs should be available through less expensive institutions such as TAFEs and private providers that do not fund research, and that universities  should be allowed more freedom to set student contributions to help cover costs and align demand and supply.


“A more diverse and competitive higher education environment can widen participation further, contain costs to Government (and students) and encourage further development of accessible educational pathways,” the paper concludes.


The Go8 paper can be downloaded here.