The current Australian Govt. is proposing to deregulate the university sector, reduce funding for the major universities, and provide funds to private colleges including theological colleges.
The prospect of the Australian Govt. funding theological education, including the training of priests, has prompted quite an uproar evidenced by Matthew Knott’s alarmist piece in The Age/SMH (with video) on Abbott Government Cuts University Support; Funds Priest’s Training. It is a highly prejudicial and inaccurate piece in my estimation.
In response, I have written an article at an Aussie e-journal called On-line Opinion, entitled Anti-Religious Card is Poor Way to Oppose Abbott’s Uni Policy.
I refer to how secular universities receive government funding to teach programs and courses that clergy and religious professionals take, so funding private colleges is not a big step towards something different.
There is no doubt that Abbott’s policy on tertiary funding is controversial. Personally I think helping private colleges in all sectors become competitive in the tertiary marketplace is probably a good idea in the long run. That said, I fully admit that the issues of deregulation and funding are contentious and complex. We need a robust discussion on how to make tertiary education fair, effective, and affordable for both tertiary providers and students. However, in that discussion, playing the anti-religious card to push back on de-regulation appears to be both prejudicial and poorly informed. There are better ways of carrying out this debate.