Deregulating university fees is not essential for Australia to have a sustainable and high quality university sector, according to the new chairman of peak body Universities Australia, Barney Glover.
Professor Glover, who is the University of Western Sydney vice-chancellor, said the university funding debate must focus on the "compelling case" for increased government investment – not just requiring students to pay more for a degree.
In an interview with Fairfax Media marking his arrival at Universities Australia, he also queried the effectiveness of Labor's proposal to write off HECS debts for 100,000 science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) students.
Universities Australia, which represents Australia's 39 universities, has strongly supported the Abbott government's push to allow universities to set their own undergraduate fees while opposing proposed cuts to course funding. Education Minister Christopher Pyne has vowed to reintroduce legislation later this year following two previous Senate defeats.
Professor Glover said the government is unlikely to pass higher education reform in this term. He is already thinking ahead to the next election, where higher education is set to be a key policy battleground.