The OECD Education at a Glance Report ranks Australia’s public investment in tertiary education in the bottom four of the world’s advanced economies – 30th out of 34 nations – at just 0.7 of our GDP.
The report data also confirms that Australian students and their families continue to pay the sixth highest fees in the world as a percentage of our national income.
Australia’s private investment in tertiary education now sits at 1.1% of GDP – more than twice the OECD average of 0.5%.
The data comes as legislation to impose a further $2.8 billion in cuts to universities and their students – on top of another nearly $4 billion in cuts since 2011 – is debated in Parliament today.
Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the proposed cuts would only take us backwards at a time when our economic competitors were investing more in education.
“Already Australia lags behind most other OECD countries for public investment in the tertiary education,” Ms Robinson said.
“The further $2.8 billion in funding cuts and student fee rises proposed by the federal Government would exacerbate that trend,” she said.
“In a time of rapid and dramatic change across our economy, we need strong universities to help create new jobs, reskill Australians and generate new sources of income for Australia.”
Rankings released last week revealed that universities in mainland China and Hong Kong were beginning to overtake some Australian universities.
Global ranking analysts noted this rise was because of “sustained” and “high-levels” of public investment – and warned the proposed cuts risked damaging Australia’s standing in future rankings.
“Global competition in higher education and research and for international students is intense. We simply can’t afford to cut our investment at a time when other countries, including those in Asia, are turbo-charging their investment in higher education,” Ms Robinson said.