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For the second time in four months, the Senate blocked major reforms to the Australian higher education system that Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne had been pushing since last year (see ACA Newsletter Education Europe, Government’s chances of getting the bill passed might have been hurt by Pyne’s last minute threats to cut funding for a major research program were the Senate to reject the fee deregulation reforms. Australia is a pioneer in research on a global level, and funding cuts could mean the loss of up to 1 700 jobs. Faced with harsh criticism, Pyne swiftly backtracked and announced that proposed funding cuts would be discussed separately from fee deregulation, the priority in the reform package. However, crossbench senators’ anger at Pyne’s threat might have influenced their decision to block the bill on 17 March. Undeterred by this new defeat, Pyne expressed his determination to try to pass the legislation for the third time later this year.
Universities Australia, which represents Australia’s 39 Universities, criticised the Senate’s decision for not delivering “a long-term, sustainable and predictable funding model.” Yet whether the Australian higher education system is indeed in crisis, as supporters of deregulation would suggest, is a matter of The Guardian