Cutting university infrastructure – not so clever
Closing the $3.7 billion Education Investment Fund (EIF) would make it harder for Australia to create new jobs, generate research breakthroughs and compete for international students – our third largest export.
Universities urge the Turnbull Government to rethink its plans to proceed with the closure of the EIF – a decision announced in today’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO).
The fund has been in limbo since it was first earmarked for abolition in the 2014 Budget – but the Government was unable to abolish it in the last Parliament to establish its Asset Recycling Fund.
“The permanent loss of this fund would be a body blow to Australia’s third largest export sector,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.
The EIF provided finance for universities to build new labs, research institutes and modern teaching facilities – including much-needed infrastructure in rural and regional economies.
In a report released this month, the Higher Education Infrastructure Working Group noted with concern that while universities had managed their building programs well, more infrastructure needed repair.
“The leveraging effect … was also very significant. The funding provided by the Government attracted significant co-investment, stimulated the economy and created jobs, and resulted in some outstanding infrastructure outcomes. [The fund] matched or bettered many infrastructure funding schemes for universities in countries Australia benchmarks against and competes with in the international higher education market,” the report by the Government’s own review team noted.
“If this fund is abolished, the question for Government is how does it expect universities to fund infrastructure such as next-generation teaching and research hubs?” Ms Robinson said.
“These facilities are vital to educate Australian students for the jobs of tomorrow – and attract international students, who contribute $20 billion a year in export income for Australia,” she said.
“Investments in universities are investments in our transition to a new economy. It’s imperative that we do all we can to ensure that Australians aren’t left behind in that global race.”
University education and research saves lives, transforms communities and reshapes industries.
The $3.7 billion in the EIF should remain available for investment in large transformative projects at universities – as part of a productive infrastructure investment plan for the country.
Universities understand the intense pressures on the federal Budget and on Australia’s AAA credit rating, but investments in productive infrastructure help to generate future sources of revenue for the country.
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