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Independent student ombudsman must have the powers to put students first

I am pleased the Coalition’s campaign for an independent National Student Ombudsman has formally been endorsed by education ministers today.

The Coalition has long advocated for an ombudsman to hold universities to account when they fail to put students first.

Whether it be student safety, deficient courses or a lack of enforcement of university policies, an ombudsman with the power to investigate and resolve student complaints is long overdue.

For months, I have backed the need for an ombudsman to protect and safeguard domestic university students when higher education providers disregard student complaints or fail to provide appropriate support or justice. This includes refunding students for deficient courses.

Jason Clare’s botched “Support for Students” policy after his reckless decision to abolish the 50 per cent pass rule left students with too few safeguards.

The new ombudsman must have adequate powers to function efficiently and throw the book at universities when required.

The Coalition also welcomes the government’s Higher Education Code to Prevent and Respond to Gender-based Violence.

Whether they are on campus, online or in student accommodation, keeping students safe including from sexual assault and harassment is a critical responsibility of higher education providers.  Too many incidents of gender-based violence and harassment have been swept under the carpet and that is totally unacceptable.

In developing this code, I acknowledge the very important contribution made by advocates from End Rape on Campus, the STOP Campaign, and Fair Agenda as well as the CEO of Our Watch, Patty Kinnersly.

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