v Brett Wortman

Pyne puts privatisation of Hecs debts firmly on table

THE debts of thousands of existing and former Australian university students may be handed over to a private operator, Education Minister Christopher Pyne indicated on Monday night.

But Mr Pyne would not confirm a privatisation of the billions in HECS debt would definitely happen.

He made the comments during an ABC Television program on Monday night, where he said the privatisation of the debt was being "floated as an idea" within the government.

The Higher Education Contribution Scheme debts, totalling more than $20 billion, are owed by current and former students to the Commonwealth, for helping pay university fees.

No interest is charged on the debt under government ownership of the scheme, but owed amounts are indexed, and so do face a marginal rise each year.

While the government has outlined no official plans or policies to further capitalise on the debt, Mr Pyne said: "Why would you rule anything like that out?"

"Britain have sold their HECS debt as an asset, and we should investigate whether that is a sensible move for us to do."

The debt may be one of numerous Federal Government assets to come under the consideration of the government's Commission of Audit.