Proposed changes to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme: A statement from the Women in Economics Network
On 19 June 2020, the Australian Government Minister for Education, Dan Tehan MP, announced proposed changes to Australia's Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) as part of the Department of Education's Job-ready Graduates Package.
The proposed changes, if implemented, would affect student fees in economics course in Australian universities, for students commencing in 2021. Student contributions in economics are proposed to increase from $11,355 (current Band 3) to $14,500 (newly-created Band 4). Economics is one of only a few disciplines for which fees will increase. Most others discipline will see a fee decrease or no change. Full details can be found in the Department of Education's Job Ready Graduates: Higher Educational Reform Package 2020 Discussion Paper (pages 18-19).
Please note that the Women in Economics Network, in keeping with the principles and protocol of the Economic Society of Australia, maintains an apolitical stance on all policy issues, except when the issue pertains to WEN's four core objectives.
The WEN National Committee has deemed that this policy issue directly pertains to WEN's objectives to "increase the representation of women at all levels of the economics profession" and "encourage young women to study economics". The issue also relates to Economic Society of Australia's objective to "encourage the study of economics". WEN has issued this statement with the support of the ESA.
WEN has submitted a letter to Government Ministers urging the Australian Government to reconsider the allocation of economics to the top band of HECS. This is based on the strong public value of economics, equity considerations, and the need for greater gender and socioeconomic balance within the profession.
"At a time when our country needs more hands on deck on drive our recovery, to make sense of economic data, and to develop evidence-based policy responses, now is a critical time to send a message to the next generation that an understanding of the economy matters. And that a career in economics delivers a valuable public service."