The NSW Government is taking further steps to reform outdated regulations governing the State’s 10 public universities by slashing financial red tape, Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli announced today.
“Universities are absolutely critical to NSW. Not only do they provide high-quality education for hundreds of thousands of graduates – who make such an important contribution to the State’s society and economy — they are also big businesses in their own right,” Mr Piccoli said.
“But these incubators of the future have been saddled with a blanket of regulation left over from yesterday.
“The Labor Party did nothing in 16 years to help universities compete in an increasingly global education market.
“Since coming to power the Liberals & Nationals Government has acted decisively. We appointed the first-ever Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education and Skills and in 2011 we introduced overdue reforms to allow universities a greater say in determining the size and composition of their governing bodies.
“Now we are going further and we will introduce legislation to allow universities greater freedom in managing their finances and land dealings.”
Mr Piccoli noted the combined annual turnover of the 10 universities is more than $7.5 billion and emphasised that appropriate accountability mechanisms will remain.
“But many current ‘requirements’ are outdated and deny universities the flexibility needed to manage their financial and commercial activities as self-reliant institutions,” he said.
“The reforms also allow university governing bodies to approve their own commercial guidelines within existing frameworks.”
The Universities Legislation Amendment (Regulatory Reforms) Bill 2014 is based on recommendations from a review of State university regulation by Gabrielle Upton MP, then Parliamentary Secretary for Tertiary Education and Skills, now Minister for Sport and Recreation.
Mr Piccoli initiated the review following a request by the NSW Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. The universities have been extensively consulted about the changes.
The reforms will remove requirements, including that universities must have:
· approval of the Governor, on the recommendation of the Treasurer, to borrow funds;
· approval of the Treasurer, on the recommendation of the Minister for Education to appoint funds managers; and
· approval of the Minister for Education to sell, mortgage or lease university land other than land obtained from the State at less than market value.
“These reforms help ensure our universities are best placed for further success in the rapidly evolving national and international education market,” Mr Piccoli said.
“The reforms also allow governing body election processes to be established by the universities themselves, instead of the current convoluted arrangement requiring their inclusion in by-laws that then have to be approved by the Governor.
“University audit and annual reporting requirements are unaffected by the legislation which will ensure appropriate checks and balances are maintained.”