A boost in Commonwealth-supported places for the University of Tasmania is key to its support for proposed higher education reforms.
In a letter to staff on Monday, vice-chancellor Rufus Black said UTAS supported “with qualifications” the proposed reforms.
However, he clarified UTAS didn’t support the reforms in its entirety, citing the price changes as part of what he didn’t believe would work.
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“The current package…seeks instead to encourage students through price signals to study particular subject areas,” he said.
“Those price signals aren’t likely to be effective and, even if they were going to work, they would be the wrong ones to be sending in Tasmania because of the nature of the Tasmanian workforce.”
His remarks and submission to the inquiry were labelled “a betrayal” to students, who believe the changes will disproportionately affect the ability to access tertiary education.
The proposed changes, announced by federal Education Minister Dan Tehan in June, will see fees for some courses increase by up to 28 per cent. However, humanities courses will skyrocket by 112 per cent.
Professor Black said UTAS had given its support to the proposal, due to the increase in Commonwealth supported places, which would rise for institutions like UTAS by 3.5 per cent.
“Under the current funding scheme, we have reached the cap on the number of Commonwealth-supported places we can access next year,” Professor Black said.
“While this remains the case, we can neither increase the number of Tasmanian students nor the number of domestic students overall.”
UTAS is in in the process of transitioning away from a reliance on international students to one that is smaller and more agile to respond to the needs of Tasmanian students.
Central to that strategy is to increase the number of domestic interstate students studying at the university.
Professor Black said the reforms would also increase funding to UTAS for scholarships to low socio-economic areas, which also aligned with the university’s strategy to remove barriers to higher education.