Scott Morrison's plans to double the cost of arts degrees to $14,500 a year while slashing the price of maths and engineering qualifications face a huge setback
Morrison is coming down heavily on the utilitarian view of education but there is a big lobby for education as a general cultural grounding.
The cultural argument has some force but theory is poorly matched by experience these days. Humanities courses distort our inherited culture if anything. They are Left-wing madrasses rather than Athenian symposia.
In the circumstances the argument that taxpayer money should not be spent on Leftist indoctrination has much force. Morrison is on the right track
The future of the Morrison government's university fee changes is uncertain after a vote in the Senate showed a lack of majority support for the idea.
The draft legislation, which also reduces the price of 'job-relevant' courses, was introduced to federal parliament last week and is being debated in the lower house.
While a Greens bid to have the bill referred to a committee for an inquiry failed in the Senate because of an even vote, if senators vote the same way for the draft laws they would fail.
Cross bench senators Jacqui Lambie, Rex Patrick and Stirling Griff sided with the Greens and Labor, leaving the committee vote tied.
Labor's education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek says the government is hiding from scrutiny by voting against an inquiry into the bill.
'Whenever there are tough questions to answer, the Liberals run from scrutiny,' she told AAP. 'If Scott Morrison thinks his plan to cut unis and jack up fees is so great, why is he trying to stop an inquiry? What has the prime minister got to hide?'
The proposed laws would more than double the cost of some humanities courses in a bid to encourage people to enrol in courses it argues lead to higher employability.
Science and maths would be among the degrees made cheaper, along with psychology, agriculture, environmental sciences and health.
Under the plans, nursing qualifications will cost just $3,700 per year while IT, science and engineering degrees will drop by $2,000 per year.
Meanwhile humanities degrees are expected to jump from $6,804 per year to $14,500. Teaching and nursing degrees are expected to drop by 45 per cent, while a law degree will cost 28 per cent more.