Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education
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Handbook on the Politics of Higher Education

Edited by Brendan Cantwell, Hamish Coates and Roger King

Understanding the politics of Higher Education is becoming more important as the sector is increasingly recognised as a vital source of innovation, skills, economic prosperity, and personal wellbeing. Yet key political differences remain over such issues as who should pay for higher education, how should it be accountable, and how we measure its quality and productivity. Particularly, are states or markets the key in helping to address such matters. The Handbook provides framing perspectives and perspectives, chapters on funding, governance and regulation, and pieces on the political economy of higher education and on the increased role of external stakeholders and indicators.
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Chapter 14: The political economy of the Higher Education Contribution Scheme

Bruce Chapman and Timothy Hicks


In 1989 the Australian government adopted the world’s first national income contingent student loan (ICL) system, then known as the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS). HECS constituted a radical economic policy reform, with the critical element being that it was the first national ICL. This chapter documents and analyses issues that are important to understanding the political and policy environment of this financing reform. A critical motivating factor for the chapter is that closely related versions of HECS have now been implemented in around eight other countries, and such systems look set to be adopted in several others very soon. Lessons from years ago in Australia are highly relevant to perceptions of political reform well beyond this experience.

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