Leader of the House Christopher Pyne during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 26, 2014.
Leader of the House Christopher Pyne during House of Representatives question time at Parliament House in Canberra, Wednesday, March 26, 2014. AAP Image - Daniel Munoz

Free market university fees to hit regional students hardest

APN NewsdeskFEDERAL Education Minister Christopher Pyne has given the strongest signal yet that he intends to open university fees to the free market, in a speech in the United Kingdom.

Mr Pyne on Monday night addressed the UK's Policy Exchange on his intentions for Australia's higher education system.

As speculation mounts the Abbott government is preparing to allow universities open slather to charge students what they want, Mr Pyne said he wanted to "set our universities free".

He said as well as a "laser-like focus on quality", his reform agenda was focused on competition, flexibility and the "resilience and diversity to meet demand".

"As I have said, my view is that Australia must aspire to have no less than the world's best higher education system, with several of our universities ranked among the very best in the world," he said.

"The others must be thriving in other ways - providing tertiary education at a high standard with a competitive approach that means students win out."

However, Mr Pyne's speech follows concerns raised by the regional university sector that any deregulation of the fee system would disproportionately affect aspiring regional students.

Regional Universities Network chairman Peter Lee told APN last week such a move would also hit lower income students, who represented a larger proportion of regional people hoping to study at university.



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