Universities Australia supports the purpose of the fund to enable institutions to make significant structural changes in order to be sustainable in the new student demand driven funding environment. The overall impact of the new funding environment is uncertain, but is likely to require major changes in focus from a number of institutions.
As significant structural change in a university context is inevitably costly, and the available funding is limited to $400 million, it will be important for the Structural Adjustment Fund to be appropriately targeted to the cases of greatest need. By way of example, the 2009 feasibility study into a possible merger of Southern Cross University and Charles Sturt University put the price tag of this venture alone at around $400 million. Under the draft guidelines as they stand, the majority of Australian institutions could make a reasonable case for funding and there is insufficient transparency in terms of how the level of need will be determined.
Greater clarity regarding both the target institutions and the kinds of reforms the government is seeking to support would stop universities expending substantial resources on applications that are not aligned with government expectations and reduce the risk of the fund's impact being diluted by spreading money too thinly. The establishment of appropriate minimum and maximum grants may also assist in this respect.