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Universities Australia has counselled against a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s university system, using its pre-Budget submission to urge greater policy and funding certainty in higher education. 

Universities Australia’s Deputy Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the sector wanted this Federal Budget to maintain funding at least at current levels and restore reliability to funding arrangements.

“Universities understand there are Budget constraints,” Ms Jackson said. “We are not asking for significant increases. Yet investments in universities are investments in Australia’s economic growth.”

“That’s why we’ve been so strong in saying that we should at least maintain funding to universities, even in difficult Budget circumstances.”

“We need to build on the many successes of Australia’s world-class university sector, and not undermine our country’s long-term future for short-term Budget gain.” 

Australia’s universities have faced continued funding and policy uncertainty in recent years. 

Universities Australia welcomes the Government’s assurance that it will end that uncertainty in 2017 with the conclusion of its options paper process. The Turnbull Government has indicated it intends to announce a legislative package early this year.

The submission notes that while there may be a case for modest changes to the higher education system, the sector does not see a need for a dramatic overhaul.

The submission also calls on Government to reverse its decision to close the $3.7 billion Education Investment Fund, which supports Australia's long-term research infrastructure.

“We need to see this spending for what it is – an investment in new jobs, new industries and a highly skilled workforce so Australians aren’t left behind in an era of global uncertainty and rapid change.”

“It’s also an economic imperative to lift both productivity and national income from research breakthroughs.”

“And of course, maintaining a world-class university system is essential to safeguard Australia’s third largest export – the education of international students – which brings in more than $20 billion.”

Universities Australia’s 2017-18 Pre-Budget Submission is available here.

Universities Australia’s priorities for the 2017–18 Budget are:
Retain the demand-driven funding system.
• Maintain funding per Commonwealth-supported place (CSP) at least at current levels and abandon the proposed 20 per cent cut to the Commonwealth Grants Scheme.
• Ensure that base funding for CSPs adequately supports teaching and learning, base research capability and infrastructure, and community engagement.
• Ensure the $3.7 billion in the Education Investment Fund remains available to fund capital and operating costs of university research and teaching infrastructure.
• Progress the recommendations of Government-commissioned reviews of infrastructure funding in both higher education and research.
• Retain and improve the effective Higher Education Partnerships and Participation Program.
• Investigate changes to the Higher Education Loan Program to ensure the scheme’s integrity and financial sustainability.
• Commit to a five year timeframe to address the shortfall in funding for the indirect costs of research.
• Identify targeted and efficient programs that can be supported under the $12 million International Education Strategy.
• Implement measures to support universities’ efforts to develop philanthropy.
• Ensure sufficient funding for clinical placements to address underfunded areas of health professional education and clinical training, and support expansion of training places for all health professions beyond traditional public hospital settings.

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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