The Albanese Government’s decision to adopt the Coalition’s long-standing proposal for an independent student ombudsman is welcome, but long overdue.
For months, I have strongly prosecuted the merits of an ombudsman to protect and safeguard domestic university students and to hold universities to account when they fail to put students first.
Education Minister Jason Clare must ensure the proposed student ombudsman has adequate powers to function efficiently.
However, based on Mr Clare’s rushed higher education changes including his botched ‘support for students’ policy, the Coalition has little confidence in the government’s delivery of higher education reform to date.
Its student support policy, due to start in six weeks, is in such chaos that the minister’s department has gone back to the drawing board.
The policy promises to provide support for vulnerable students including by delivering additional support measures for those at risk of failing.
Some higher education providers have advised it is impossible to implement.There is no understanding as to what support measures must be delivered, let alone whether universities have the necessary systems and resources to deliver such support. This has real consequences for both students, and universities which don’t meet the grade and can subsequently be fined for non-compliance.
This is further evidence of the government’s reckless decision to abolish the 50 per cent pass rule which protected failing students from incurring significant debt.
The government has also not explained how its support for students policy intersects with conflicting regulations and standards including those imposed by the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency.
I call on Jason Clare to urgently fix his regulatory mess which is failing both higher education providers and the students they are meant to serve.