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Budget cuts to university equity programme deeply disappointing: Universities Australia

Universities Australia has criticised the 2016-17 Federal Budget's cuts to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) which assists universities to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete degrees.

The Budget cuts $152 million from the HEPPP which includes projects such as improving numeracy skills, providing work-integrated learning and mentoring to lift student retention rates.

Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said: "All Australians with the ability to do so should have the opportunity to undertake life-changing higher education.

"Improving equity in higher education is not only fair, but an essential platform for building the diverse, skilled workforce of the future", she said.

Since the program was introduced in 2010, the number of students from a low socio-economic background starting at university grew by a third with the support of this programme.

"Many of these students are the first in their family to attend university and require considerable support in a variety of ways to complete their degrees", Ms Robinson said.

The number of students from low socio economic backgrounds commencing degrees has grown by 33 per cent compared with 24 per cent for all domestic undergraduates. The number of Indigenous Australians has grown by 36 per cent over the same period.

"Cutting such a programme means we could be denying talented students a chance at higher education just because of their background. That is not only unfair but it robs Australia of future highly skilled graduates and innovators.

To build the highly skilled contemporary workforce of the future Australia needs all Australians - regardless of their background - to have the opportunity to gain the skills required by employers," Ms Robinson said.

Universities Australia Media Contacts

Misha Schubert
02 6285 8133
Mobile: 0421 612 351

Bella Counihan
Ph: 02 6285 8123
Mobile: 0419 212 219 

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