Monday, December 20, 2004

Uni chiefs see no point in Nelson's plan

The Australian Vice Chancellor's Committee says it does not see the point of putting the regulation of universities solely in the hands of the Federal Government.

Education Minister Brendan Nelson is proposing that the states and territories hand control of Australia's universities to the Commonwealth.

Dr Nelson says there would be less bureaucracy and red tape for universities if they were regulated solely by the Federal Government.

But the chief executive officer of the committee, John Mullarvey, says the Federal Government's recent changes to the sector showed otherwise.

"Unlike what the Government said it would do, and that is it said it would reduce red tape, it has increased red tape through the crossroads review," he said.

There's no guarantee that by moving it under federal legislation there would be a reduction in the red tape."

Mr Mullarvey says vice-chancellors are not convinced that the plan offers any benefits to universities.

"We welcome the debate on this issue, but I'd have to say at the outset we're not convinced that there is any real benefit in it for the university sector, or for the students, or the broader Australian community, from proposing this change," he said.


Dr Nelson says he would not expect the states to withdraw the $200 million they spend on universities if they were brought under the Commonwealth's control.

"I would be surprised if any of the states were to retreat from what they currently invest in universities," he said.

But Queensland Premier Peter Beattie is not impressed.

"Fee increases of up to 25 per cent putting unis out of reach of some students, why would we hand over these important institutions to the Commonwealth?" he said.

Dr Nelson says the states will not be forced to accept the plan.

Labor's education spokeswoman, Jenny Macklin, says centralising control of universities will not solve the more pressing problems facing universities.

"Right now we have about 20,000 qualified people who can't get into to Australia's universities," she said.

"Brendan Nelson's proposals won't do anything to create more places at our universities for those students who want to continue their education."

By Educate Don't Incarcerate 20 December 04