The children of the revolution- well, Labor’s proposed education revolution- are set to benefit if ‘K-Rudd’ is to be believed. Meanwhile, the Prime Minister and his deputy have outlined their vision for the nation’s higher education providers. Here’s Crikey’s policy comparison of the higher education policies of Coalition and the ALP.

Coalition

14 November 2007: John Howard announces aviation training packages:

  • A re-elected Coalition Government will establish a Regional Airline Pilot Scholarship Scheme by investing $9 million over two years from 2008-09.
  • FEE-HELP loans will be extended to vocational education and training providers, as announced in the 2007-08 Budget. As a result, airlines such as Qantas are working with tertiary education providers including Griffith and Swinburne universities to ensure Australia has an adequate supply of pilots to meet growth in the industry over the coming decade.

16 October 2007: Julie Bishop announces $31 million to improve university facilities for students:

  • More than $31 million in funding to improve a range of sporting, recreational, and business facilities at universities.
  • The projects have been funded under the second rounds of the VSU Transition Fund for Sporting and Recreational Facilities and the Support for Small Businesses on Regional University Campuses Programme.

14 September 2007: John Howard, latest health education plans:

Australian hospital nursing schools initiative

  • “ … The Australian Government will invest about $170 million additional funds over five years to create 25 Australian Hospital Nursing Schools to deliver hospital based training within major public and private hospitals across the country for enrolled nurses.”
  • This involves private nursing schools based in hospitals. It’s a proposal that gives the PM ammunition in the ongoing debate about Australia’s skills shortage. It also follows recent reports of some university degrees costing students over $200,000, which contradicted claims the PM made in 1999 that Australia would not have degrees that cost in excess of $100,000.
  • first intake of students is expected to commence in 2008 with more than 500 additional enrolled nurses undertaking training annually once the measure is fully implemented.
  • The Australian Government will provide wage subsidies to hospital nursing schools for each student for the first 3 months of $500 per week to assist the schools to provide their students with a wage.
  • The Australian Government will also pay the hospital nursing schools a $1,500 commencement bonus and $2,500 completion bonus for each student. In addition to these payments to the hospital nursing schools, the Australian Government will directly pay each student a tax-free bonus of $2,000 once they have successfully completed their first 6 months of the course, and a further tax-free bonus of $3,000 when they have successfully completed the course.

5 September, 2007: Media Release by Julia Bishop:

  • $68 million in funding to assist universities achieve greater productivity and operational efficiencies
  • Minister Bishop said: “The Howard Government is committed to improving the performance of our universities and the $68 million in grants I am announcing today is in addition to the $60 million in funding provided to the sector for productivity reform last year through the Workplace Productivity Programme.”

Federal Budget 2007 extract:

  • $5 billion will be invested in a new Higher Education Endowment Fund to provide a perpetual source of funding for university capital works and research facilities. The Government will make further contributions from future surpluses.
  • $768 million for universities to simplify and boost funding and to increase funding and enrolment flexibility.
  • $222 million for increased income support for tertiary students and an extra 3,500 Commonwealth scholarships.
  • $549 million for 1st & 2nd year apprentices in skill-shortage trades for a
  • $500 education voucher to offset fees and, if under 30, a $1,000 tax-free wage top-up.
  • An additional three Australian Technical Colleges. These Colleges will be located in Northern Perth, Southern Brisbane and Greater Penrith.

ALP

15 November 2007: Full fee paying students policy:

  • Kevin Rudd is sticking to his promise to abolish full-fee university degrees for domestic undergraduates if elected. Labor has stated previously it would phase out full-fee degrees by 2009, but there was no mention of the policy at the party’s campaign launch in Brisbane on Wednesday which focused heavily on education. Mr Rudd said on the weekend that Labor remained committed to phasing out full-fee degrees.

14 November, 2007: Kevin Rudd’s speech at the Opposition’s election launch on included a new chapter in his ‘Education Revolution’.

  • There will be about 88,000 new university undergraduate scholarships by 2012.
  • About another 10,000 postgraduate scholarships in the same time.
  • Additional scholarships to keep Australia’s brightest academics at the country’s universities.

10 May, 2007: Opposition leader, Kevin Rudd: 

We will phase out full-fee paying places. We’ll make sure that that occurs. But when it comes to those who are currently in the system, let’s not be ideological about them and take the axe to them. They should be allowed to finish their studies and their courses.

Stephen Smith, in a paper presented to the AFR’s Higher Education Summit, April 2007:

  • Greater accessibility and affordability of higher education so far as student income support is concerned; and HECS relief and remission for various disciplines and relevant occupations.
  • Labor is examining additional measures to alleviate the financial and work pressures on higher education students. Labor is examining a range of options, including: 
    • scholarships for the best and brightest, scholarships for low SES students, and scholarships for particular disciplines;
    • one off assistance for significant expensive lump sum items like accommodation; moving expenses associated with the take-up of higher education in a different location; or expenses associated with course costs, like text books, software, or clinical equipment.

  • Further HECS relief and further targeted HECS remissions for particular occupations identified as critical to our economy.

January 2007: Excerpts from Education Revolution Paper:

Capital investment is at the heart of a third wave of economic reform that will position Australia as a competitive, innovative, knowledge-based economy that can compete and win in global markets.

We need to set for ourselves a new national vision – for Australia to become the most educated country, the most skilled economy and the best trained workforce in the world.

This paper further argues that Australia faces a mounting crisis:

  • Productivity growth has been falling. Benchmarked against the United States economy, Australia’s labour productivity fell back from a peak of 85 per cent to just 79 per cent between 1998 and 2005, almost completely losing the relative productivity gains of the 1990s.
  • National investment in education in Australia has not been keeping up with the rest of the world. Since 1995, Australia’s public investment in tertiary education has gone backwards by 7 per cent, compared with an average increase by other OECD countries of 48 per cent. Australia is the only nation that has cut its public investment in tertiary education.

31 January 2007: Kevin Rudd and Stephen Smith Encouraging Young Australians to Study and Teach Maths and Science:

  • A Rudd Labor Government will provide $111 million over four years in financial incentives for university students to study and teach maths and science.
  • Labor’s New Directions for Maths and Science plan provides a double-barrelled incentive for young Australians:
  • We will halve the HECS fees for new maths and science students while they are studying; and
  • We will then halve the HECS repayments of maths and science graduates if they take up work in a relevant maths/science occupation, particularly teaching.

Labor’s New Directions for Maths and Science policy will:

  • Reduce the HECS contribution for new maths and science students from the current annual student contribution rate of $7,118 to $3,998 from 1 January 2009.
  • Reduce the accumulated HECS debt of a science or maths graduate from more than $21,000 under the Howard Government, to approximately $12,000.

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Peter Fray

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