Today's "University of the future" report by Ernst & Young paints a gloom and doom picture designed to grease the way for the private sector to profit from universities at the expense of a well-resourced and regulated public education system, says Greens higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon.
"The challenges facing public university education in Australia can be best met by increased government funding to restore decade long cuts. Carving up the sector to provide new markets and economic benefits for the private sector is a bankrupt solution," Senator Rhiannon said.
"The report is fashioned to smooth the entry of private sector providers at the expense of a robust and equitable public university sector, as well as to win Ernst and Young business.
"'Market contestability' and 'competition' are buzz words designed to paint increased funding cuts to public universities as inevitable and the private sector as the saviour of universities.
"Universities have already been cut to the bone but this report talks of 'new, leaner business models' 'run like corporations' to 'exploit profitable market niches' using 'Darwinian' forces.
"This report forecasts cutting 'unprofitable' disciplines, slashing administrative staff and outsourcing back office functions. It belittles the dominant university model - a broad-based teaching and research institution.
"The future does bring challenges but if the federal government puts it head down, works closely with universities and provides adequate funding there is no reason why the public university model cannot meet them.
"Public universities are the key to affordable and equitable access for all students but they must to be well resourced. The Ernst and Young model will see fewer courses offered, higher student fees and staff cuts.
"The Gillard government continues to tighten the university budget strings. On top of this week's cuts to the Higher Education budget there has been more than $1.3 billion in 'savings' slashed from universities and students since the beginning of 2011.
"If the government wants to build a clever country and meet its target of 40 percent of 25-34 year olds holding a bachelor's degree or higher qualification by 2025 it cannot afford to hand university education over to a 'contestability' focused, private sector driven model," Senator Rhiannon said.
Ernst and Young report: http://tiny.cc/nyonmw