Australia's requirements to sustain economic activity and provide for future nation building can both be served by a prudent enhancement of support for higher education and research. The Government's Review of Australian Higher Education and Review of the National Innovation System clearly articulated the merits of such an expansion, and these have been strongly supported by universities and other stakeholders.
The university sector, deprived of public funding for the past decade, has a significant backlog of priority expenditures that would see an immediate pay-off for the economy in terms of short-term spending on infrastructure and employment. In the longer term, the returns from higher education and research investment have been robustly demonstrated in a range of studies and underpin the nation's future growth including growth in government revenue. These returns derive from the higher productivity of university-trained workers, multi-factor productivity growth through university research and innovation, export earnings from overseas students, and social returns from a more highly educated, globally integrated population.
In support of these objectives, Universities Australia proposes the following responsible and timely package of budget measures, closely aligned with the findings of the Government's reviews:
- An additional $330 million in 2009-10 for teaching and learning, including a ten per cent expansion of the base Commonwealth Grant Scheme amount as recommended by theBradley Review.
- A new $200 million per annum Equity Fund, with equity and diversity priorities and benchmarks for individual universities to be negotiated through a compacts process.
- An additional $490 million in 2009-10 for research, consisting of an additional $100 million toarrest the declining success rates for Australian Research Council grants, and an additional $390 million in Research Infrastructure Block Grants as a key step towards full-cost research funding.
- An additional $184 million for research training, primarily to expand the number and quality ofresearch degree places through the Research Training Scheme.
- Fast tracking of the first round of the Education Investment Fund to July 2009, with an allocation from the fund of approximately $1 billion in 2009-10.
This package in total represents an additional appropriation of $1.2 billion in 2009-10, plus a $1 billion initial allocation from the Education Investment Fund.
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