Last-minute procedural hitches have meant laws which will push up the cost of humanities courses while "job-ready" qualifications like nursing and engineering will become cheaper won't pass parliament until the next sitting week.
Amendments made to the universities legislation were about to get the green light in the lower house on Thursday, having bounced back to the Senate for its consent.
But the lower house suspended - ahead of Labor leader Anthony Albanese's budget reply speech - before it had time to again consider the amendments and won't return until October 19.
Senate support and the amended bill's ultimate passage was assured when Centre Alliance's Stirling Griff backed the government, despite still holding concerns about its fairness and the lack of a long-term funding plan for universities.
The bill passed the Senate 28-26 on Thursday afternoon.
Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek expressed the opposition's disappointment as the amendments shuttled between chambers.
"Last year's slogan was 'Back in black' - this year's song is 'Dirty deals done dirt cheap'," she said.
The changes are aimed at funnelling university students into "job-ready" degrees and subject areas.
Fees for science and engineering courses would be cut and the cost of law and humanities units jacked up.
Education Minister Dan Tehan says the shake-up will create tens of thousands of places and leave universities no worse off.
But universities have warned they could lose tens of millions of dollars in revenue and, on average, students would be asked to pay a much higher proportion of the cost for their degrees.
Amendments to the laws will strengthen protections for students who fail units due to circumstances beyond their control, such as illness or problems with work.