CEO Dr Glenn Withers said, "Higher education has not come out unscathed in the Government's search for spending cuts. Today's MYEFO sees the abolition of performance funds amounting to $240 million over four years and the removal of the current HECS reduction for maths and science students representing an average annual cost to students of $300 million.
"These measures are disappointing. The Government has been very clear regarding its fiscal needs. However the key qualification is that good budget policy should target recurrent spending and not public investment that generates future public revenues and national productivity gains.
"Performance Funding was a key component of the teaching and learning section of the Government's Compacts initiative. In the 2009-10 Budget the Government provided funding to assist universities in achieving national quality, participation and attainment objectives. The funding was tied to individual agreements (Compacts) which articulate the strategies a university has established for achieving the teaching and learning mission and agreement to targets relating to specific Australian Government attainment and equity goals."
Dr Withers continued, "Higher education performance funding was nevertheless deferred in 2011 and will now be cancelled. This is short-sighted, though we are pleased to see existing programs aimed at facilitating increased university participation for low SES groups are not included in the cuts.
"With regard to the abolition of the HECS reduction for maths and science students, we see this as disappointing for students in these fields. Alternative programs to improve school science and maths studies and consequent university enrolments are instead imperative and have been promised by government. Universities Australia would wish to keep working closely with the Chief Scientist to ensure that this is what can happen."
"Any fiscal adjustments to higher education are unfortunate, and there is a danger of 'death by a thousand cuts' as successive budgets drop and defer program commitments each time. Universities are therefore wary, though are comforted that major reform programs established by this Government are affirmed. Since Labor took office in 2007 significant reforms have occurred within the higher education sector, all aimed at ensuring and enhancing the quality of our education services while enriching the student experience and improving access to higher education."
"It is pleasing to see the Government stand behind its core reforms, recognising the important role higher education plays in ensuring the short, medium and long-term productivity of our nation. This important contribution must not be directly compromised nor indirectly undermined by an accumulation of specific cuts," Dr Withers concluded.
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