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Minister makes early moves on Accord recommendations

Steps taken on student progression, Indigenous support and university governance in Australia

Education minister Jason Clare has introduced legislation to parliament with the aim of meeting two of the immediate recommendations laid out in the interim report of the Australian Universities Accord panel.

The legislation will ensure that students who fail more than half their subjects will retain access to the higher education loan scheme, and that universities will receive government funding for Indigenous students from all areas of the country, rather than just for those from regional and remote areas.

The changes are two of the five immediate recommendations in the interim Australian Universities Accord report, all of which were accepted by education minister Jason Clare when he released it on 19 July. The others were the extension of current university funding arrangements for two years to provide certainty during the Accord process, the creation of off-campus “study hubs” and a national effort to improve university governance.

Working group

In a speech to parliament on 3 August, Clare said he had given Ben Rimmer, his deputy secretary for higher education, the task of convening a working group to come up with solutions for issues in university governance. Clare has written to the ministers for higher education in all states and territories to ask for their cooperation with the committee.

He said its three main areas of focus would be: making universities “good employers”, particularly around support and correct payment; making sure governing bodies have the right expertise, including in the business of running universities; and the safety of staff and students.

University response

The vice-chancellors’ group Universities Australia welcomed the legislation and said it would work with the government on the other urgent recommendations.

“We are committed to working with government around issues relating to governance to ensure we are providing the best possible work and learning environment for staff and students,” chief executive Catriona Jackson said in a statement.

Consultation is currently open on the rest of the interim report, which covers issues ranging from potential new universities to research funding reforms.