Photo: The Government also wants graduates to begin repaying their student loans once they begin earning $42,000. (AAP: Paul Miller)
Universities say proposed changes to higher education funding are a "disaster averted", but still not ideal.
- Overhaul includes fee increase, teaching payment cuts, loan repayment changes
- Proposal a "big improvement" on previous plan, Universities Australia CEO says
- National Union of Students says there's "no silver lining", ready to fight back
University of Sydney vice-chancellor Dr Michael Spence said this was better than the Government's previous proposal.
"It is a disaster averted, and the disaster was the 20 per cent cut to university operating budgets," Dr Spence said.
"We're extremely grateful to the [Education] Minister for the work that he did in thinking through the competing interests and in arguing for higher education at the Cabinet table.
"But it's also a budget that in some ways is an opportunity missed, because the Government's done nothing about the significant cost of research."
The Government also wants graduates to begin repaying their student loans once they begin earning $42,000, rather than the current threshold of about $55,000.
Dr Spence said the changes could threaten the "innovation economy" the Government has been wanting to establish.
"The combination of the package in relation to student loans and these cuts means that students will be paying more and the universities getting less," he said.
"That doesn't seem like a good formula for preparing for a knowledge future."
Student union ready to 'fight back'Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson also said the proposal was a big improvement on the previous plan. But she said it still was not "good news".
"I think any further impost on students is regrettable given that the private contribution to university education is one of the highest in the OECD," she said.
"And when it comes to universities, the sector as a whole and students have already contributed around $4 billion over the past six years to budget repair."But Ms Robinson said the package included some positive elements.
She particularly welcomed the decision to retain and legislate the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program, which supports students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
But the president of the National Union of Students, Sophie Johnston, said there was "no silver lining" to the Government's proposal.
"I think a lot of students are angry, they're frustrated, they feel incredibly disrespected by some of the language that's being used," she said.
"I can absolutely assure the Government that we will be fighting back and there will be thousands and thousands of people alongside us."
Education Minister Simon Birmingham has already begun discussions with crossbench senators to pass the overhaul, but said he was hopeful the Opposition would back the changes.
Video: Uni cuts make it harder to deliver top quality teaching: Plibersek (ABC News)
Labor's education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said "the worst of the cuts" from the 2014 budget had been fought off, but she still had concerns about the new proposal.
"I wouldn't say that this package is a good package for universities," she said.
"We're still talking about $3 billion of cuts, we're still talking about higher fees for students, we're still talking about cuts to universities and their operating expenses."