While Liberal students search out biased academics, it is good to see that Young Labor is joining NUS in pursuing one of the big problems in higher education, price control.
As readers may recall, NUS is supporting an increase in the maximum student contribution amount so that amenities fees can be reintroduced. In the SMH this morning, Young Labor President Sam Crosby has an op-ed calling for HECS to cover textbook expenses.
Both the NUS and Young Labor proposals are typical of the ad hocery that plagues policymaking in higher education. Endless minor changes to the existing system aimed at particular problems add to complexity without fixing the underlying structural flaws. But they are at least recognising that price control creates problems and calling for change, albeit change that does not go nearly far enough.
What’s really going on is this. For political reasons, the maximum student contribution amount is set too low. As this Access Economics report on six universities (pdf) found last year, these universities are already losing money on Commonwealth-supported students in half of the 22 disciplines examined. This means that there is no scope for bundling – whether that is non-academic services or textbooks and other study aids.
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