Higher Education Reform Needed: Article by Jennifer Westacott in the Daily Telegraph

This opinion article by Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott was published in the Daily Telegraph on 25 September 2014 under the title ‘Right Foundation for Higher Education.’

I am passionate about education. This is partly because I don’t come from a privileged background, but my grandmother was determined I would go to university to open up opportunities for me. It did, and I want those same opportunities given to all Australians.

The government’s education package being considered by the Senate does exactly that. These changes are not just about budget cuts, they are about building the right foundation for the higher education sector we need in order to be competitive.

While there will be always different views about some of the detail in the package, it is important the Senate does not lose sight of the bigger picture that we need to reform the higher education system and we don’t throw out or compromise the really valuable changes as part of political horse trading. The changes mean even more people will get government funding to study past Year 12.

Young people who aren’t sure if university is for them will be able to get government funding for a diploma, complete that first and then decide. These courses are also great pathways into work for young people.

Workers who haven’t studied for many years will be able to get government funding to study with a provider who caters to adult learning and is flexible about work commitments.

Students will also have more choice, which in turn should encourage universities to focus on making a student’s experience engaging, rewarding and more relevant to the jobs they may get.

The Business Council believes the comparative advantage for Australia must be to train, attract and retain the best and brightest people in the world. That means we need a higher education sector that delivers skilled graduates, world-class research that leads to innovation, and a strong export industry.

This package is the right platform to build the higher education sector we need.