Reform to Higher Education Should Not End Here

“The failure of the government’s Higher Education and Research Reform Bill 2014 cannot be the end of the crucial process of reforming our higher education sector,” Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.

“Irrespective of who is in government, that party will need to confront the reality that both our vocational education and training (VET) and higher education sectors will stagnate without systemic reform – the data makes this clear.

“In 1983, 350,000 students attended university. In 2013, there were close to a million. The number of VET students has more than doubled over the past 30 years from 800,000 in 1983 to 1.9 million today.

“This vast increase in the numbers of people attending tertiary education institutions is a positive thing, for individuals and for the nation as the economy requires workers with higher level skills and capabilities.

“The idea that a tertiary education system which should be available to all Australians can be sustainably supported by the taxpayer is not realistic.

“The government’s intent for the reforms is right and it now has an opportunity to take a step back and look at the broad tertiary system of VET and higher education.

“The community and parliament as a whole need to consider how we can create a broad tertiary system with a quality and fit-for-purpose model that delivers skills development to people across all stages of their lives.

“This is an area in which we have great expertise in Australia. The government can bring together a range of experts to broaden the scope of the reforms to the tertiary sector, and re-design a package that can achieve consensus and includes proper market design and safeguards.

“The time is right for the government to work with the states, industry and the opposition to create a tertiary education system that truly meets the needs of 21st-century Australians,” Ms Westacott said.

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2664 • Mobile 0403 241 128