Universities Australia praised both announcements for moving the nation further towards a stronger research capability and closing opportunity gaps in regional Australia.
UA Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said the extra funding in the National Research Infrastructure Investment Plan was important to the country’s ability to generate future jobs and growth.
“Just like a deposit on a home, this extra investment in major national collaborative research facilities is an instalment on owning our own research future as a country,” Professor Gardner said.
The National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS) delivers world-class research facilities used by more than 35,000 researchers and staffed by more than 500 technical experts, researchers and facility managers in 222 institutions.
“These research superfacilities support solutions to some of our biggest challenges,” she said.
“They will help deliver cures for skin cancer and diabetes, create new medicines, turn waste into renewable fuels, and secure our country’s future environmental, energy and food needs.”
“Investing in these facilities is like laying the rail and road networks of the 19th and 20th centuries — they are productive infrastructure to deliver tomorrow’s discoveries, industries, start-ups and jobs.”
The good news on research infrastructure is tempered by the ongoing university funding freeze, which will cut $2.1 billion from universities over the next few years.
Universities Australia this week released modelling by Cadence Economics which found the uni freeze will cost the economy up to $12 billion and sacrifice $3.9 in future tax revenue.
Professor Gardner noted the Government still intended to legislate to close the $3.8 billion Education Investment Fund — the last remaining source of capital funding for higher education.
“EIF is a ‘future fund’ that has helped to build new labs, research institutes and modern teaching facilities — including infrastructure in rural and regional economies,” Professor Gardner said.
The Budget unveils some important new measures on university access for regional Australia.
“Funding 185 new Bachelor degree places at Regional Study Hubs will help to ensure more regional Australians don’t miss out on the opportunities enjoyed by their city cousins,” Professor Gardner said.
“Regional universities and their graduates are the lifeblood of their local economies and communities.”
“Australians who live in the country remain half as likely to have a university degree as city dwellers – so expanding study opportunities for regional communities is hugely important.”
“The decision to fund an extra 500 enabling and sub-Bachelor places will help to expand opportunities for regional Australians to try their hand at university study.”
“Enabling courses prepare over 22,000 Australian students each year for university study — the majority from disadvantaged backgrounds — to help them to succeed at university.”
KEY BUDGET MEASURES IN UNIVERSITY EDUCATION AND RESEARCH:
- $393 million over five years for research infrastructure – with $200 million to flow in 2017-18;
- major changes to the R&D tax incentive for business, saving $2.4 billion over four years;
- $275 million in research projects funded by the Medical Research Future Fund;
- 185 Bachelor degree Commonwealth Supported Places (CSPs) for the eight previously-announced regional study hubs in 2018-19. This number is set to rise to 500 places a year from 2022;
- 500 extra enabling and sub-Bachelor places for regional Australians;
- a lift in the parental income threshold from $150,000 to $160,000, plus a further $10,000 for each additional child, for regional students seeking independent Youth Allowance;
- the establishment of a Murray Darling Medical School Network;
- a change to funding arrangements for the higher education regulator, TEQSA, to move to a full cost recovery model, raising $28.3 million;
- the levying of an annual charge for all HELP providers – including universities – to raise $31 million over four years;
- a $63 million cut to the Endeavour Scholarships program;
- a review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (ESOS) annual registration charge; and
- reclaiming unspent funds from Industry Growth Centres and Cooperative Research Centres – a new saving of $20 million over two years.