No support for uni reforms despite science backflip

DESPITE backflipping on his threat to cut $150 million from scientific research, Education Minister Christopher Pyne is unlikely to succeed in winning crossbench support for his university deregulation plans.

On Monday Mr Pyne promised to reinstate the funding for the ongoing costs of the $2 billion National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy for one year.

The policy backflip came as Mr Pyne also announced he was splitting the original bill into two.

Mr Pyne said the measures to deregulate uni-versity fees would be voted on this week.

But a controversial 20% cut to government subsidies for university places would remain in a new bill, but not be voted on until May.

The second includes the funding cuts and will come before parliament in May. He hoped the change, supported by Universities Australia, would move enough of the Senate crossbenchers to support deregulating university fees.

Mr Pyne had previously said the $150 million for NCIS funding could not be found without passing the reforms.

But on Monday he said he had found the savings to fund the ongoing costs of the program for one year, in "budget offsets" that he refused to reveal until the May budget.

UA chief executive Belinda Robinson said she still expected the new bill to cut 20% of Commonwealth Grants Scheme funding to fail.

Splitting the bills also means the government may claim an extra $1.9 billion in savings in the budget.

Mr Pyne's latest changes failed to gain traction with Labor, Greens or four key crossbenchers likely to decide the reforms' fate.

Senators Nick Xenophon, Jacqui Lambie, Glenn Lazarus and Dio Wang reaffirmed their opposition to the bill on Monday. As Senator Bob Day is the only supporter of the current deregulation bill, it is expected to fail in the vote.


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