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An open letter to Universities Australia

Media Release
Lee Rhiannon 24 Nov 2014

24 November 2014

In response to a letter sent from Universities Australia to all crossbench Senators today, Australian Greens spokesperson for higher education Senator Lee Rhiannon has published the following reply:

An open letter to Universities Australia

Dear Universities Australia,

Like you, the Greens are very aware that without strong and sustainable universities, Australia risks being left behind.

However, unlike Universities Australia, the Greens believe it is the responsibility of the Government to provide adequate levels of public funding for universities to ensure they are world class and inclusive of all Australians, not just the wealthy.

We do, however, agree that it is now clear that a new approach to funding is needed to maintain the quality education students expect, but that approach needs to be fair.

For the Greens, the fairness does not involve pushing the funding burden onto students in the form of exorbitant prices that is going to lock hundreds of thousands of students and their families in decades of debt.

I note that in your letter to Senators asking them to support fee deregulation, you mention "fair" ten times, but do not mention deregulation once. I believe that it is in the interests of universities, staff, students and the wider community for
Universities Australia to take a strong public stand against the proposed $5 billion cuts and fee deregulation.

I commend the University of Canberra's Vice Chancellor Stephen Parker's comments today distancing himself from your campaign: "Not much I can do but Universities' Aust. ads on HE bill don't reflect my views, and to say reforms are fair for students is nonsense. SP".

Education is about opportunity and hope. For many Australians, education is the key to their future - it gives them a leg up, and makes freedom and choice possible. Education empowers people.

It is important to Australia's higher education sector that Universities Australia is a voice for the community and students that need public universities the most - for disadvantaged Australians, for regional Australia and for those on low incomes.

Universities Australia has an opportunity to work alongside Parliamentarians who believe we should be discussing how to build up public higher education, not tear it apart with $5 billion in cuts and the removal of caps on student fees.

Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon
Spokesperson for Higher Education

Contact: Brami Jegan 0487 350 880

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