Explanatory MemorandumCirculated By Authority of the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Jobs and Workplace Relations
The main purpose of this Bill is to implement a demand driven system for funding undergraduate places at higher education providers listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 ( HESA). The higher education providers are mainly public universities.
From 2012, universities will be able to determine the number of students that they choose to admit to undergraduate courses, with the exception of medical courses.
Except in specific circumstances, the Government will no longer regulate this aspect of a university's operations and the Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding for these places will not be limited.
In this Bill:
Schedule 1 amends the Commonwealth Grant Scheme provisions in Part 2-2 of HESA and makes amendments to other provisions of HESA to remove the annual caps on Commonwealth Grant Scheme funding and to change the way in which higher education providers will be eligible for funding under Part 2-2 of HESA.
Schedule 2 amends HESA to abolish the student learning entitlement (SLE) which currently limits a student to the equivalent of approximately seven years full-time study as a Commonwealth supported student. With the removal of the SLE, amendments to HESA are required to ensure that people are able to request a refund of their student contribution amount and reduction in HECS-HELP debts under special circumstances.
Schedule 3 makes other amendments to introduce requirements for Table A and Table B providers to have institutional policies in place to promote and protect free intellectual inquiry in learning, teaching and research. As part of removing the restrictions on funding for undergraduate places, HESA is being amended to require Table A and Table B providers to enter into a mission based compact with the Government. The compacts provide for Commonwealth oversight of the teaching and research missions of Table A and Table B providers. It is intended that compacts will set out how the missions of these providers align with the Commonwealth's goals for higher education, research, research training and innovation.
Application, savings and transitional provisions will:
- provide 1 January 2012 as the principal date from which providers and the Commonwealth will be subject to the new provisions (although some provisions will commence on Royal Assent so that implementation steps can be carried out in advance)
- provide, in relation to the abolition of SLE, that the fact that a person has used up some or all of his or her SLE before the amendments commence will have no bearing whatsoever on whether he or she is able to be a Commonwealth supported student under the new (ie as amended) provisions
- maintain rights and obligations accrued and incurred under the old provisions, including with respect to reviewable decisions under HESA.