Reforms 'threat' to Warrnambool Deakin campus

DEAKIN UNIVERSITY’S Warrnambool campus would be turned into a “second-class institution” under reforms considered by the federal government, a former university minister claims.

The south-west’s substantially lower university enrolment rate would also be exacerbated, former Higher Education Minister Kim Carr said, with regional students “locked out” due to higher fees.

Senator Carr said the Norton-Kemp report’s proposal to raise university fees would hit regional students particularly, the financial sacrifice of living away from home adding to their family’s burden.

But a spokesman for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the government was committed to maintaining quality regional education.

The Norton-Kemp review was established six months ago by Mr Pyne and is co-chaired by former education minister David Kemp and long-serving higher education adviser Andrew Norton.

“It’s a question of social justice — school leavers in south-west Victoria deserve the same educational opportunities as anyone else,” Senator Carr said.

“Under the Norton-Kemp proposals being examined by the federal government, we would see universities being placed in a two-tier system where there’d be institutions classified as exclusive and others, particularly regional (universities) that would be branded as not exclusive. 

“That would turn campuses in Warrnambool, Ballarat, Bendigo into lower funded universities that would be second-rate compared to ones in Melbourne and Sydney when we really should have a level playing field.”

A spokesman for the education minister said the government would carefully consider ahead of next month’s budget how to maintain high standards across all universities. 

“The Commonwealth government is committed to regional universities and to maintaining and expanding opportunities for all students from regional and rural areas,” the spokesman said.

“The government is carefully considering the Kemp-Norton review of the demand-driven funding system and the other views currently being put forward.”

Deakin University vice-chancellor Jane den Hollander warned against deregulation of higher education fees in an opinion piece written for online magazine The Conversation.

“If we deregulate fees, it would create an inequitable system based on a university class structure, and that could lock out many lower socio-economic status students,” Professor den Hollander wrote. 

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