Pyne's higher education reforms expected to flunk, again

EDUCATION Minister Christopher Pyne's changes to higher education are expected to fail when parliament resumes, despite a push from regional universities for the Senate crossbench to pass the reforms, with changes.

Mr Pyne will be meeting with crossbenchers during the first sitting of parliament for 2015, in his latest effort to get a reform package through despite failing late last year.

But despite the government's efforts, it appears without major changes, the reforms will fail, with three key crossbenchers unwilling to back the reforms.

While senators David Leyonhjelm, John Madigan and Ricky Muir supported the package last year, all three are expected to vote it down if the government tries to force it through the Senate.

But the Regional Universities Network is expected to meet with crossbenchers in the next fortnight, lobbying for them to support the reforms, if certain changes are made.

RUN executive director Caroline Perkins told APN the dilemma regional institutions faced was the still possible 20% cut to government contributions to fees, but they held hope the cut would be "reversed or reduced".

She said if the cut remained, RUN would be pushing for the government and crossbenchers to increase the mooted "adjustment fund" for regional universities and those with lots of lower income students, as well as increases in scholarships for rural and low-SES students.

Ms Perkins said since 1994, universities across the board had faced successive cuts to government funding, equating to 14.4% currently, or up to 34.9% drop in funding should the 20% cut go ahead.

But she said the reforms did show promise, and "needs to be resolved soon", as long as funding was secured for regional students and universities.

"We need some movement on this either way, really our position is dependent on what happens to the 20% cut - if the government doesn't reduce that cut, we will need more funding in other areas," she said.

But a spokesman for Senator Leyonhjelm, who supports the 20% cut, said he would not be changing his position and offers from the government to other crossbenchers to reduce the cut contradicted arguments to repair the budget.

A spokesman for Senator Madigan, who also previously supported the bill, also confirmed he was now opposed, on the grounds he believed that cut should not go ahead, and regional students and universities needed more funding.

The Labor Party and crossbench Senators Jacqui Lambie, Nick Xenophon, Ricky Muir, Glenn Lazarus and Dio Wang, have previously said they would not support the current package.

A spokesman for Mr Pyne said he had already met with Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon, but he continued to have "meetings in good faith with the crossbench".