Australia's vice-chancellors and education minister have issued a joint statement across Southeast Asia refuting claims that Australian universities are manipulating examination results in favour of fee-paying students.
The claims were based on a survey sponsored by a Canberra-based think-tank, the Australia Institute, which examined the impact of commercialisation on academic freedom.
Alarmed at the possible damage the survey could do to the A$3.5 billion (£1.32 billion) education export market as a result of its widespread publicity across the region, education minister David Kemp and the president of the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee insisted that the claims were unsubstantiated. They noted that the survey was incomplete and unsupported by documentary evidence.
Australia Institute director Clive Hamilton said preliminary analysis suggested that universities were favouring sub-standard, fee-paying students.
But one of the researchers involved, Carole Kayrooz of the University of Canberra, said the study was based on a questionnaire sent to academics in social science departments and had not been concluded.
Dr Kayrooz said the reports of fee-paying students' results being "tweaked" was not the major finding.