Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne promised a ''unity ticket'' on education funding during the election campaign.

Christopher Pyne's office has confirmed the Abbott government is in talks with the O’Farrell government about the governance of NSW universities. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen

The Abbott government is considering taking control of the governance of Australian universities, relieving state governments of the responsibility.

A spokesman for Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne has confirmed the federal government is in talks with the O'Farrell Government about the governance of NSW universities.

Under the plan, laws that govern universities in NSW would reportedly begin to be passed by the federal Parliament.

The Abbott government is also reportedly preparing to relieve the NSW government of billions of dollars worth of unfunded obligations for superannuation schemes run by NSW universities.

As a consequence, the Abbott government would then be given a greater say in the appointment of people on university councils.

The NSW government is "receptive to the idea", according to a spokesman for NSW education minister Adrian Piccoli.

If such a deal goes ahead, universities would reportedly not need to seek approval from the NSW government before borrowing.

"The Commonwealth is currently in preliminary discussions with the NSW government about the governance of NSW universities," a spokesman for Mr Pyne said.

"The Coalition governments in NSW and nationally are committed to cutting red tape and regulation in higher education and is considering all options as to how this can be achieved."

Kim Carr, the federal opposition's education spokesman, said he would welcome news that Australian universities were to be made "genuinely national".

But the Abbott government needed to guarantee that, if such a deal went ahead, the country's universities would retain their academic freedom and institutional autonomy, he said.

"The principle of universities being state-institutions has been a legal fiction for some time because states provide very little money towards the running of universities," Mr Carr said.

But he also raised concerns about the consequences of relieving the NSW government of billions of dollars worth of unfunded obligations for superannuation schemes run by the university sector.

"That will have knock-on implications for all other jurisdictions," Mr Carr said.

"It would clearly impact on the Commonwealth's global borrowing requirements. We already have the impression that this is a government where the sky's the limit when it comes to the debt ceiling."

Jeanie Rea, the president of the National Tertiary Education Union, said she wondered what advantage the Abbott government would get from assuming billions of dollars worth of unfunded obligations for university-run super schemes.

"I'd want to know more about what the plans are, and why it's considered to be a good idea," Ms Rea said.

"Just talking about red tape is getting to be a bit of a mantra rather than actually having substance."

The news comes a day before the government releases its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

News reports on Monday showed the Abbott government is expecting the federal budget deficit to have blown out to $47 billion.

Leaked figures to media reportedly showed the budget deficit had deteriorated by $17 billion since Labor's final budget update, which was released just before the election was called.
Labor's final budget update outlined a $30 billion deficit for 2013-14.