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University of Canberra's Stephen Parker slams Universities Australia

University of Canberra vice chancellor Stephen Parker has lashed out at Universities Australia, saying Australia's peak university body has lost its moral compass and is pledging to shun the organisation's future meetings.

Professor Parker said the deregulation of university fees would be the ironic death knell of Universities Australia and said nothing justified the organisation's support of the federal government's proposed reform.

University of Canberra vice chancellor Stephen Parker has lashed out Universities Australia in a speech in Sydney.
University of Canberra vice chancellor Stephen Parker has lashed out Universities Australia in a speech in Sydney. Photo: Rohan Thomson

"The support that UA is giving them [the proposed reforms] is a strange form of suicide ritual," he said.

"Whether it breaks up soon because the tensions are too great, or it survives until the interest group factions have no more use for it and spit it out, UA is doomed because it has lost its moral compass.

"I personally will not attend a further meeting of an organisation with necrotizing fasciitis; the condition where the body eats its own flesh."

Professor Parker's impassioned comments were part of a speech at the National Alliance for Public Universities Forum held at the University of Sydney on Monday - the home of vice chancellor Michael Spence, who is a key backer of the proposal to uncap university fees.


The speech coincided with federal education minister Christopher Pyne's announcement of a number concessions to its higher education reforms in a bid to move fee deregulation through the Senate by the end of the year. 

Professor Parker has been a vocal critic of student fee deregulation since the Abbott government announced its proposal to allow universities to set their own fees by 2016.

His views contrast those of ANU counterpart Ian Young, who has backed the plan to allow universities to charge more to make up for a cut in federal funding.

The UC head said older universities will raise fees, further stratifying institutions and creating a "dog-eat-dog" competition, if students fees were not capped.

He also used his speech to express disbelief at being the only vice chancellor to voice his fears for fee deregulation and described the proposal as poor policy that would adversely hit students.

"This will blight the lives of a generation, unless Australia comes to its senses," he said.

"Bizarrely there is no guarantee that a single cent of the extra money will go into the student's course: it could go into research, infrastructure, paying for past follies or current cock-ups. It's tempting, believe me, I make them too, but it's wrong.

"The internal equity aspect of the policy design is laughable: why should the second poorest quartile of students subsidise the lowest quartile? So I ask myself which policy amateur came up with the scheme in the first place?"

Professor Parker urged the academia world, politicians and voters to wake up and reject the reform. 

"Join us at the table for a sensible conversation, without a gun at our heads, about how to make Australian public higher education great," he said.

"Congratulations to [the National Alliance for Public Universities]; you are doing what your seniors are too complacent to do."