8 May, 2012The peak body representing Australia's university sector has commended Minister Evans and the Government for its decision not to step back from its program of higher education reform, even under difficult fiscal circumstances.
"This is a strong budget for the university sector," said Universities Australia Chief Executive, Belinda Robinson.
"Over the past few years the Government has achieved a number of very significant outcomes in higher education. These include: indexation of base funding, streamlined visa processing for international students, the introduction of the demand-driven system, an increase in infrastructure investment, and funding to meet the indirect costs of research.
"These reforms have played a key role in renewing universities capacity to compete in the Asian century.
"That there has been no rewind, no back-sliding on its important teaching, learning and research program in a very tough budget environment is testament to the priority the Government continues to place on the role universities play in Australia's future prosperity.
"Universities are fundamental in underpinning productivity growth, innovation, economic security and the nation's long-term well-being.
"Universities Australia welcomes the additional $23.4 million to support those from disadvantaged backgrounds and students needing additional preparation. This support is vital for such students to succeed at university," Ms Robinson said.
The Government has announced the end to the upfront HECS discount to the undergraduate students enrolled in maths and science.
"Universities Australia accepts that this high cost measure was not particularly effective at encouraging students to study maths and science at university. Nor did it address the very real need to focus the attention on schools, where student study choices are made, and teaching, where students get their inspiration.
"The Government's announcement in response to the report released tonight by the Chief Scientist of $54 million to support the teaching of maths and science at schools, and maths and science teacher education, is strongly supported to address the urgent need to lift the proportion of Australia's workforce educated in maths, science and engineering.
"The Chief Scientist's recommendation for a Flagship Program, in Mathematics and Science Teacher Education, has significant merit and we note that the Government will be giving it serious consideration as part of its response to the Base Funding Review.
Ms Robinson also introduced a timely reminder that "there remains some important un-finished business on the Government's higher education reform agenda".
"Momentum needs to be maintained particularly in relation to settling a sustainable long-term investment platform for research infrastructure and addressing the Government's review of base-funding that recommended an increase in the level of public investment in universities on a per student basis.
"Universities Australia welcomes the Minister's acknowledgement of this unfinished business and his stated intention to work closely with Universities Australia in progressing this critical work."