Should the budget pass, university leaders are commonly speaking of necessary tuition fee increases of at least 45%, simply to maintain current expenditure on teaching and learning. Far higher student contributions and interest rates on student debt threaten to double or even treble total student repayments.
However, the Teacher Education Ministerial Advisory Group asks fundamentally the same questions as previous reviews of teacher education have asked. Commentators state that each inquiry reaches much the same conclusions and makes much the same recommendations, yet little changes.
The ideology in question, one suspects, is free-market libertarianism. This approach draws heavily on Fredrich Hayek, a leading economist who influenced Reagan and Thatcher, and continues to be heavily influential today among groups such as the US “Tea Party” Republicans.
The subsidy cuts are too harsh, and their hit-and-miss pattern is a mystery. But the package has positives. These include the maintenance of demand-driven funding for bachelor degrees and its extension to sub-bachelor programs. HELP loans, which have come to represent “Volvo safety” for financing study fairly, remain central. And even without cuts, many universities now need scope to set their own fees beyond the existing price caps.
What’s wrong with the US model?
As is well documented, the elite US universities heavily subsidise their students to attract the “highest quality”. This concern for “quality” doesn’t mean everyone has an equal shot. At the more selective US private universities, The New York Times reports that: