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Panel to assist in working up long-delayed changes for universities

The expert advisory panel will hold its first meeting on Monday. Dean Lewins/AAP

The government’s long road to a higher education policy has taken another small step forward with Education Minister Simon Birmingham setting up an expert advisory panel.

Birmingham said the panel would work alongside him to take the more than 1200 submissions which were made in response to the government’s options paper, released in May, to the stage of an implementable policy.

The panel members are Dr Michele Allan, chancellor of Charles Sturt University; Professor Peter Noonan, Mitchell professorial fellow at Victoria University; Andrew Norton, Grattan Institute higher education program director; and Professor Sally Walker, former vice-chancellor at Deakin University.

The panel holds its first meeting on Monday. While there will not be a round of consultations, the panel will have limited, targeted discussions with stakeholders.

After then education minister Christopher Pyne failed to win parliamentary support for a radical 2014 plan to deregulate university fees the government stepped back from full deregulation. But it is considering a more limited form of deregulation which would uncap fees for flagship courses.

Birmingham is expected to unveil his higher education policy by early next year. The start of changes was previously delayed until the beginning of 2018.

Announcing the panel Birmingham said: “Policy settings must create the optimal incentives for higher education institutions to be responsive to both student needs and economic demands for high-quality, employment-focused outcomes, as well as leadership in research and innovation, while operating within budget restraints.”

He said the panel would have access to data and analysis on the efficient cost of delivering higher education teaching and scholarship, so the system represented “value for money”.

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