In her address to the National Press Club today, Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner will outline the high-risk stakes to social cohesion of the $2.2 billion in cuts in December’s mid-year Budget update.
“Our university system now educates tens of thousands more Australians who would not otherwise have had the chance of a university education,” she will say.
“This is all the more reason why – having opened the doors of opportunity – our nation cannot afford, socially or economically, to slam them shut once more.”
The funding freeze would also limit Australia’s future national productivity, our economic growth and our tax base now and in the decades ahead.
Australia would suffer from greater division and disaffection if it turned its back on the educational opportunity offered by uncapping university places, she will warn.
“Opportunity for all is our greatest insurance policy against despair and disaffection,” she will say.
Since university places were uncapped from 2008, Australia’s universities now educate:
- 55 per cent more Australians from the poorest one-fifth of households;
- 48 per cent more students from regional and remote communities;
- 89 per cent more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and
- 106 per cent more students with a disability.
Growth rates for each of these groups was significantly higher than the growth rate for all students.
“So my message today is a plea to policymakers,” Professor Gardner will say.
“Don’t lock the door of opportunity on young Australians – nor on older Australians who need to retrain and reskill as their jobs change around them.”
“End this university funding freeze. And restore our nation’s investment in Australian students and Australia’s future.”