If the government can get its proposals past the Senate, Australia will run an unprecedented experiment in fee and place deregulation with few constraints and little direct experience to inform policy, analysis and institutional strategy.
And innovation there will need to be – in spades. For the first time since Whitlam, universities and other providers will be able to charge what they wish for a place at the table. Caps on fees are gone.
In a major shake-up, universities, TAFEs and colleges will be able to set the tuition fees for their courses from 2016. This is estimated to save the government A$1.1 billion over the next three years.
Despite the focus on the tightening of purse strings this week, perhaps now is the time to question whether Education Minister Christopher Pyne and many education “reformers” are completely missing the point when it comes to education. The noise and messiness of blame, finger-pointing and partisanship that exists in our political landscape has created a situation where policymakers and politicians focus on incremental change, budgets and narrow conceptions of school success based on high-stakes testing and outdated views on what it means to be educated.