It must be budget season. All around Canberra, the trees are vivid shades of red, yellow and orange, and the federal government is starting to roll out its pre-budget announcements. Over the weekend, we had two significant new policies for higher education.

Yesterday morning the government said it wants to “wipe” about $3 billion in student debt and change the way student loans are indexed. At the moment, debts are pegged to inflation, which has become increasingly stressful and problematic for students. As higher education policy expert Andrew Norton writes, “last year, high inflation pushed the indexation rate to 7.1%, the highest since 1990”.

In the face of growing community pressure, the government now plans to base indexation on whichever is lower: the Consumer Price Index (CPI), which measures inflation, or the Wage Price Index (WPI), which measures hourly wage rates in the same job. The government will also backdate the new system to 2023, thereby cancelling an estimated $3 billion in debt.

While the Universities Accord final report in February recommended the CPI/ WPI approach, Norton notes that actually cancelling debt is a “surprise move”. It should be a welcome one for the roughly 3 million Australians with student debt. But it doesn’t necessarily mean the issue is solved. As Norton warns, the WPI has only been lower than the CPI four times since 2000: “the government’s fix for 2023 leaves students vulnerable to times when the CPI and the WPI are both high”.

In a second announcement yesterday evening, the government revealed a “Commonwealth Prac Payment” of $319.50 per week for those studying to be a teacher, nurse, midwife or social worker. Currently, some students have to give up paid jobs to complete lengthy unpaid work placements as part of their degrees. They fall into “placement poverty” as a result.

But with some degrees left out of the new payment, which is not due to start until mid-2025, expect fierce debate about the fine print.

Judith Ireland

Education Editor

The good news is the government plans to cancel $3 billion in student debt. The bad news is indexation will still be high

Andrew Norton, Australian National University

The federal government has announced plans to change the way debts are indexed. But it may not help students over the long term.

Albanese government to wipe $3 billion in student debt, benefitting three million people

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

The new indexation arrangement will be backdated to all HELP, VET Student Loan, Australian Apprenticeship Support and other student support loan accounts operating on June 1 last year.

Students on social work, nursing and teaching placements to get weekly $319.50 means tested Prac Payment from July next year

Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra

A new Prac Payment will assist about 68,000 eligible higher education students and more than 5,000 VET students each year.

A tax on sugary drinks can make us healthier. It’s time for Australia to introduce one

Peter Breadon, Grattan Institute; Jessica Geraghty, Grattan Institute

Sugary drinks cause weight gain and increase the risk of a range of diseases. But a tax can reduce sales and make us healthier.

Australian churches collectively raise billions of dollars a year – why aren’t they taxed?

Dale Boccabella, UNSW Sydney; Ranjana Gupta, Auckland University of Technology

Some churches operate huge business enterprises and collect rent on extensive property holdings. This income isn’t taxed.

What Australia can learn from Latin America when it comes to tackling violence against women

Luis Gómez Romero, University of Wollongong; María de la Macarena Iribarne González, University of Wollongong

Nearly all countries in the region have criminalised either femicide or feminicide, which has had a tremendous impact on society.

Nuclear power makes no sense for Australia – but it’s a useful diversion from real climate action

Adam Simpson, University of South Australia

Insisting nuclear power is the only way for Australia to achieve net zero by 2050 is a classic move from the playbook of those who oppose urgent action on climate change.

Holy moly! Scott Morrison has plans for your (and his) own good

Joshua Black, Australian National University; Frank Bongiorno, Australian National University

Scott Morrison’s Plans for Your Good is part political memoir, part self-help book, and very strange.

Real comedy, real trauma: how Baby Reindeer and Feel Good are forging a new television genre

Marina Deller, Flinders University; Kate Douglas, Flinders University

Stand-up comedy has always been autobiographical, but now a new generation of comedians are adapting their lives (or some version of it) into scripted series.

As New Zealand CBDs evolve post-pandemic, repurposing old or empty spaces should be on the drawing board

Jose Antonio Lara-Hernandez, Auckland University of Technology

Changing work habits and shifting environmental priorities demand new models of urban redevelopment. Architectural ‘exaptation’ uses the past to reimagine the future.

Politics + Society

Health + Medicine

Science + Technology

Arts + Culture

Books + Ideas


Featured jobs

View all
The Conversation AU
Melbourne VIC, Australia • Full Time
The Conversation AU
Melbourne VIC, Australia • Full Time
List your job

Featured Events, Courses & Podcasts

View all
Emerging Leaders Program

8 April - 14 May 2024 • Blended

Promote your event or course

​Contact us here to list your job, or here to list your event, course or podcast.

For sponsorship opportunities, email us here