Reviews highlight decades of higher education funding challenges

Media Release
  • Minister for Education and Training

The Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, today released a summary paper of all recent major reviews conducted into Australia’s higher education system, as part of consultations into developing a fair, sustainable, world-class system.

Speaking today in Sydney at the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit, Senator Birmingham said the background paper summarised the findings of each major review of higher education from the 1988 Dawkins White Paper to the 2014 Kemp-Norton Review of the Demand Driven Funding System.

“These reviews show that for almost three decades Australia has been grappling with how to enable more students to access the benefits higher education offers – in terms of employment, earnings, social and cultural opportunities – while ensuring the system remains fair, high quality and affordable for both individuals and taxpayers,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Australians place a high value on higher education—more than a third of 25 to 34 years olds now have a bachelor degree, compared to only 12 per cent a quarter of a century ago[1].

“The demand driven system has seen unprecedented growth in higher education participation—a 25 per cent increase in Commonwealth supported undergraduate places in just six years, from 2009 to 2015.  At the same time, government expenditure on higher education teaching and learning has increased by 55 per cent—from about $8.6 billion in 2009 to $13.3 billion this year.”

“There have been many reviews conducted over the past 27 years with a lot of consistency in the issues that past governments have sought to address – from funding teaching and research, to equity of access for students studying outside public universities or undertaking sub-bachelor qualifications, and ensuring universities are incentivised to differentiate,” Senator Birmingham said.

“Rather than starting again from scratch, the summary paper that I’m releasing today provides a basis for fresh discussion about the challenges facing higher education in Australia.

“I am committed to listening to students, parents, employers, education institutions and my Senate colleagues about the opportunities to respond to these challenges and the potential ways forward on higher education reform. I invite anyone with views to share them with me.”

The review can be accessed at

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