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Fee criteria commendable but real story hidden

Fee maxima criteria commendable but hide the real story

'Commendable' ideas for the implementation of fee maxima, released in a government report today, hide the fact that over-regulation will not solve tertiary education's problems, according to Education Forum policy adviser Norman LaRocque.

The Government today pledged to achieve 'long-term predictability' in tertiary education fee levels, following advice in the Fee Maxima Reference Group report to have more certainty in fee levels.

Mr LaRocque said many of the reference group's criteria for fee maxima - including flexibility, simplicity and transparency - were commendable but the weight of evidence pointed towards the best policy being no maxima at all.

"At a minimum they ought to be set in the most flexible and liberal way possible to maximise institutional freedom."

The fee maxima, to be introduced in 2004, were out of step with tertiary education developments around the world where less centralised regulation and increasing private investment was the trend, Mr LaRocque said.

"Other countries are learning the lessons of over-regulation and are moving towards more market-based solutions."

Lack of predictability about increases in the average fee levels during the 1990s should not be overstated, he said. Though the increases may have seemed large in percentage terms, they were small in absolute terms, especially when considered against the benefits that graduates get from their tertiary studies.

"The experience of the 1990s suggests that tertiary institutions, on the whole, were extremely responsible in fee-setting.

"As in increasing numbers of other countries, our tertiary institutions should now be given the opportunity to set their own fees in that same responsible fashion so that the needs of institutions, students, and indeed the sector as a whole, can be better met."

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