The majority voted in favour of a motion to agree with the remaining stages of this bill, subject to a request. In other words, the senators voted that they agreed to the bill as amended. If the House of Representatives agrees with the request - that is, the Senate amendments - then the bill will return to the Senate for a final vote before becoming law.
What does the bill do?
This bill will implement part of the government's Job Ready Graduates Package and includes major proposed higher education funding changes, including how the government currently subsidises university tuition costs.
If successful in its current form, the bill will decrease the subsidy for most areas of the humanities and social science as well as in engineering, science, surveying, environmental studies and other areas. On the other hand, it will increase the subsidy for most health fields, education, mathematics and other areas. At the same time, the bill will set new maximum student contribution amounts, which means the degree costs for students are going to change significantly. Humanities, law and commerce degrees are going to increase in price while mathematics, agriculture and certain science degrees will decrease.
Sometimes, such as in the case of engineering, the changes appear somewhat contradictory: both the subsidy for engineering and the maximum student contribution rate is being reduced. According to Science and Technology Australia ("STA"):
...the proposed reduction of funding could risk the teaching of engineering especially at smaller or regional universities. The impact of the funding changes would also be particularly acute in the ‘heavy engineering’ disciplines – the teaching of which often involves expensive large-scale facilities and infrastructure. This affects fields such as mining engineering, petrochemical engineering, electrical engineering, heavy mechanical engineering and advanced manufacturing.
The most significant change will be in the cost of humanities degrees, which will go from being one of the cheapest subject areas to one of the most expensive.
According to the bills digest:
Analysis from the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne has estimated the overall impact of the proposed change:
University revenue for teaching would be reduced by nearly one billion dollars in 2021 and every year thereafter for the same domestic student load as in 2018 as a result of the funding caps imposed in 2018 and the 2021 funding cluster changes in Job-ready Graduates
In other words, the overall affect of the bill appears to be a reduction in government funding for the university sector.
Read more about the bill in the bills digest.