Universities say the number of student places needs to grow even faster than planned, and fee hikes will not help.

The Federal Government is still working on a new higher education package, which it wants to legislate before the end of this year.

Amid the discussion, the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) network has called for changes that to protect students and universities from dramatic changes in fees and funding.

IRU represents seven major Australian universities including Western Sydney University, La Trobe University and Griffith University. It has made a submission to the government calling on it to “rework the student charges so that no unit is subject to a charge higher than the current highest rate”.

The IRU wants the government to simultaneously “raise the lower rates proposed to offset this”, so that that universities do not receive less funding for each student on average than they currently do.

“As we explore the detail and universities model the period to 2024, there is less and less comfort that the funds saved are all being returned in other ways,” the submission states.

“Revenue for STEM and agriculture ought not to reduce if more graduates with these skills are required.”

Additionally, the IRU is calling on the Morrison government to help boost the number of university places.

“Additional growth places are needed since the number planned will only just cover the population growth in the younger age groups in the short term and will fall well short towards the end of the decade,” it says.

Education minister Dan Tehan has been fending of criticism and concern from all sides since he unveiled the “job-ready graduates” package in June, which would reduce the overall government contribution to degrees from 58 per cent to 52 per cent on average and increase fees for some courses to help pay for 39,000 extra university places by 2023.

The package has been slammed for its apparent bias, especially the proposed 113 per cent fee increase for the humanities.

The fee hike was put forth with no modelling about whether it would actually incentivise students to study science instead of humanities, which Mr Tehan says is the point of the change.

Federal regional education minister, Andrew Gee, a Nationals MP, has issued a statement under his ministerial banner saying his LNP colleague Mr Tehan had included as “a glaring and potentially detrimental design flaw” in his plans.

Nationals are concerned that hiking fees for social work, behavioural science and mental health will hurt regional areas, affecting harm women, mature students and regional Australia more generally.