The Australian National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) is concerned that the new Australian government’s narrow focus on skills risks undervaluing the sector.
“Like many others in the higher education sector, NTEU is concerned about the message being sent to the Australian community and the rest of the world by including higher education under the ‘skills’ banner,” NTEU Victorian Division Secretary Matthew McGowan said.
“There are significant challenges facing the sector in the immediate future with increasing demands for greater participation and a fragile international student market. With a heavy skills focus, the government must be conscious of the broader responsibilities of the sector to the critical engagement with society and the world rather than merely skilling the labour force.”
Vice chancellors in Australia are however, for the most part, expressing relief at the election result and the new government.
Professor Peter Coaldrake, chair of Universities Australia, the vice-chancellors’ lobby group, told The Australian newspaper: “It means stability and continuity because the government’s higher education reform package is a known quantity.”
As part of the deal to persuade independent MPs to support her government Prime Minister Gillard, has announced that AU$500 million from the Education Investment Fund would go to regional Australia over the next four years.
That is likely to mean at least one or two new universities will be built in the main regional cities as well as branch campuses of existing universities. The University of Canberra has already indicated its interest in setting up satellite offshoots elsewhere in New South Wales.
How the additional allocation to regional Australia will affect the government’s previous commitments to higher education across the rest of the nation is unknown.