University reform remains on the federal agenda

FEDERAL Education Minister Simon Birmingham has signalled the Turnbull government will revive university fee deregulation with the sector's support.

Senator Birmingham was promoted to the eduction portfolio last year by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, after Christopher Pyne's failed efforts at passing wide-ranging reforms, including fee deregulation.

Sen Birmingham told a Universities Australia conference in Canberra yesterday that the government believed some reform was necessary to support innovation, protect Australia's reputation and "support federal budget sustainability".

He told the conference the coming election would provide a choice for students and universities, between a government intent on making the sector "financially sustainable" and an Opposition promising "more of the same".

Future efforts to reform universities would need to be "generally supported" by the sector and the reasons for changing the system "well understood".

Sen Birmingham also announced a new committee to oversee research and development issues.

He said it would be staffed mainly by university vice-chancellors, industry figures and Australia's chief scientist, Alan Finkel.

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