The cuts are more than double the amount anticipated as the research community braced for cuts foreshadowed by Education Minister Dan Tehan last month.
Even before these cuts, Australia’s Government spending on R&D was forecast to plunge to a four-decade low of half a per cent of GDP this year — setting loud alarm bells ringing.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said such deep cuts to university research were “a ram raid on Australia’s future economic growth, prosperity, health and development.”
“Every day, Australians right across the country – from farmers to families with young children – benefit from research breakthroughs,” she said.
“These cuts are the wrong decision for Australia’s future — and they will rob Australians of life-saving treatments, research to help prevent floods and bushfires, and advances in almost every aspect of people’s lives.”
“Over the course of this year, we have seen cuts to funding for student places at universities, a proposed new tax on student loans, and a further tax on universities who recruit global talent.”
“And now we have this fresh blow — just before Christmas — to our research capability.”
“The Budget is forecast to return to surplus and yet the Government has decided to cut funds to research which drives economic growth. This makes no sense.”
On Friday, the nation’s universities joined forces to launch a new campaign — #UniResearchChangesLives — to highlight how the lives of everyday Australians have been changed profoundly by university research breakthroughs.
It highlights the stories of everyday Australians who have survived stroke, cervical cancer and family violence – and the university researchers who worked on breakthroughs in these fields.
The news comes as a new survey shows that the Australian public values university research and wants it to be free from political interference.
“Three quarters of Australians want us to spend more on research and development as a share of our national economy than we currently do,” Ms Jackson said.
“The Australian public gets it – now we need the Government to follow the public’s lead.”