The Government’s own data on its funding freeze, obtained by the ABC under Freedom of Information laws, shows which universities will be the hardest hit by the backdoor cuts made in the mid-year Budget update last December.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Designate Catriona Jackson said these cuts would mean less opportunity for all and create greater barriers for regional students.
“Some of the places to be hardest hit by the funding freeze are in local economies already doing it tough,” Ms Jackson said.
These regions include central Queensland and the Sunshine Coast, Tasmania, the NT, Ballarat, the Latrobe Valley, NSW’s Northern Rivers and outer suburban belts across Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.
“If you’re a university in an area of growing population with growing demand, these cuts will hit even harder,” she said.
The $2.3 billion cut also risks the nation’s pipeline of skilled graduates despite forecasts warning labour market demand for university-qualified workers will continue to grow.
The new figures from the Government reveal Central Queensland University, based in Rockhampton, would be the hardest hit – losing 15 per cent of the base funding it would have received by 2021 if the freeze wasn’t in place. The University of Tasmania is the next hardest hit, losing almost 11 per cent in funding.
Regional universities on average face a cut to their base funding of 7 per cent by 2021 if the freeze continues.
Ms Jackson said the cuts were short-sighted.
“If you cut funding to universities, they won’t be able to respond to skills shortages, local population growth and a diversifying economy,” she said.
“These Government cuts will force some universities to offer fewer places in their local communities. Universities and students right across the country are facing the harsh reality of a cut that does not end.”
The hit is not only to students but to the national tax take. For every single graduate lost to the nation’s workforce, the economy would be $470,000 worse off.
People living in regional Australia are half as likely to have a university degree as their city counterparts.
“The pre-freeze uncapped system meant that 50,000 more disadvantaged Australians – many from our regions – were able to go to university,” Ms Jackson said.
“We’ve made great gains in equity. These cuts will send us backwards.”
“This couldn’t come at a worse time. Australia needs university graduates if we are to maintain our prosperity and survive the major disruption our economy and workplaces face.”
“The Australian Government predicts that over 90 per cent of the new jobs expected to be created by 2022 will require a post-school qualification.”