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Two in three Australians oppose funding cuts to university research, a major new survey of public opinion has found.

Cuts of $328 million to university research were unveiled in December’s mid-year Budget update.

The survey of 1500 people — by respected firm JWS Research — found 66 per cent of Australians oppose the cuts to university research. Only one in ten Australians support the cuts.

The study found three in five Australians — 62 per cent — also oppose cuts to university student places, which sliced $2.1 billion from Australia’s universities in late 2017.

And three in five Australians — 62 per cent — think reducing funding to universities may save some money now, but it will cost Australia more in the long term.

In her address to the National Press Club, Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said millions of Australians relied on university research breakthroughs.

“Australians correctly fear that cuts to university research funding will mean fewer university researchers able to pursue life-saving and environment-saving breakthroughs,” she said.

“And they are right. This is a direct assault on our country’s clever capabilities.”

“In late 2017, major cuts were made to funding for student places at Australia’s universities. Australians do not support these policies, as public opinion research confirms.”

“That’s why we continue to highlight the opportunity cost — and the cost to opportunity – of university funding cuts.”

The 2017 funding cuts are effectively a freeze on the number of student places at universities.

This freeze continues as new analysis by Universities Australia reveals stark gaps in university attainment across the nation.

Professor Gardner said younger Australians in some States and regions were far less likely to have a university education.

“Over the past decade, more Australians have gone to university than ever before – but there are still too many States and regions missing out,” she said.

“A young person in Tasmania is half as likely to have a degree as a young person in the ACT."

Compared to the national average of 35 per cent of young people with a degree:
  • only 24.5 per cent of Tasmanians aged 25 to 34 had a university degree by 2016;
  • only 28 per cent of Queenslanders aged 25 to 34 had a university degree by 2016;
  • only 30.9 per cent of South Australians aged 25 to 34 had a university degree by 2016; &
  • only 30.7 per cent of West Australians aged 25 to 34 had a university degree by 2016.

“Opportunity is also uneven within States. In Melbourne, university attainment is around 45 per cent – in Mildura, it is just 17 per cent,” she said.

“Cuts to universities are the wrong decision for Australia’s future. We urge Government to reverse them.”

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