The Abbott Government’s push to increase university fees and student debts and allow for-profit companies to access government funding will hurt schools by reducing teacher quality, the AEU said today.

AEU Federal President Angelo Gavrielatos will give evidence at the Senate hearing into the Higher Education & Research Reform Amendment Bill 2014 this afternoon, opposing the changes due to the damage they will do to our school system.

“These measures will make it harder to attract students to teaching courses and harder to keep teachers in the profession,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“Cutting funding to universities by 20 per cent and uncapping fees must lead either to greater debts for students, or cuts to course quality.

“We need to be lifting the ATAR scores of teachers by encouraging talented university students into teaching. Increasing student debts and allowing for-profit providers to offer cheap, lower-quality courses will put further downward pressure on entry scores for teaching courses.

“While ATAR scores are not the only measure of what will make a good teacher, it is important for the future quality of our schools that we attract students with strong academic records into teaching.

“We want to see tougher entry requirements, and to ensure that teaching becomes a two year post-graduate degree, but these changes will push us in the opposite direction.

“Increasing the cost of a teaching degree may discourage people from entering the profession. Teachers’ salaries are lower than those earned by many other graduates, and increasing the debt burden on teachers will increase the number leaving the profession.

“Higher student debts are more likely to hurt female teachers, the majority of the teaching workforce, who may move in and out of full-time employment as they raise children and take longer to pay off their debts as a result.”

Mr Gavrielatos said moves to privatise university funding would lead to a major shift in higher education which would have a negative impact on students.

“Allowing for-profit providers to compete for government university funding will lead to the same disastrous outcomes we have seen in vocational training, where private providers have reduced standards while generating huge profits for themselves,” Mr Gavrielatos said.

“We do not want future teachers being trained by poorly-regulated organisations whose main motive is profiting from government funding.

“What we are seeing in this higher education package is an ideological push towards a privatised user pays system that will do immense damage to Australian schools.”

Media Contact: Ben Ruse 0437 971 291