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AMA raises concerns over university deregulation push

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Australian Medical Association President Associate Professor Brian Owler has written to crucial crossbench senators urging them to oppose the Federal Government’s push to deregulate university fees and reduce subsidies for Commonwealth Supported Places.

The AMA holds several concerns about the impact of these budget policy changes on medicine. As a much sought after qualification, there is a significant risk of an explosion in costs for a medical degree under the proposed university overhaul.

In his letter, A/Professor Owler said there was good evidence that high fee levels and the prospect of significant debt deters people from lower socio-economic backgrounds from entering university.

“We also know, in relation to medicine, that a high level of student debt is an important factor in career choice – driving people towards better remunerated areas of practice and away from less well paid specialities like general practice,” he added.

Senators have been warned that under the Government’s plans, the cost of studying medicine for local students could match fees charged for international students – such as the $264,400 charged by the University of Sydney for its four-year Doctor of Medicine program.

The AMA has indicated a willingness to discuss a more balanced set of reforms with the Government to address the medical profession’s concerns.

A/Professor Owler said the AMA would keep senators informed on any progress made on the issue in discussions with the Government, but he stressed that, unless there were meaningful changes to the Government’s proposals, they should be opposed.

Odette Visser