Over the past 18 months, the Government has inflicted cuts of $2.1 billion to funding for student places and further cuts of $328 million to university research.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the cuts constrain prosperity and will mean fewer skilled graduates in our economy.
“These cuts are the wrong decision for Australia — they deny Australians access to university, and to life-changing and life-saving research breakthroughs,” Ms Jackson said.
“As the nation’s Budget moves back to surplus, it makes no sense to maintain cuts to student places — which slice deeper every year. This sends us backwards, shutting talented Australians out of the education they deserve.”
The Government froze funding for student places at 2017 levels, without accounting for inflation, amounting to a 5 per cent cut by 2020.
“Young people in regional Australia are still only half as likely to have a university education. This divide will deepen as the funding cuts bite,” Ms Jackson said.
“Tasmania, Queensland, South Australia and West Australia all fall below the national average of young people with a university degree.”
“Australians know we need a smart, skilled workforce for the future, and our universities deliver this to the nation.”
“Measures to support Indigenous education, gender equity in universities, medical research, regional education — as well as a range of research and education projects in individual universities — are welcome.”
Key Budget measures include:
- $93.7 million for new Destination Australia scholarships for domestic and international students to study at regional universities (funded by closing down the Endeavour Leadership Program which supported international engagement for researchers and students);
- $277 million for Indigenous education to close the gap in attainment, including $200 million in additional scholarships and mentoring, and $71 million to forgive student debt for teachers in very remote locations;
- $3.4 million to support Gender Equity in STEM, including the Science in Australia Gender Equity program; and
- $3.8 billion over 10 years for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).
A number of universities also received funding for specific measures including:
- $60 million for the James Cook University Tropical Enterprise Centre;
- $25 million to Murdoch University for the Harry Butler Environmental Education Centre;
- $25 million to Monash University and The University of Melbourne for the National Centre for Coasts, Environment and Climate;
- $19.7 million over seven years to the Royal Far West Children’s Health and Charles Sturt University for “Project Catalyst”;
- $10 million for the Curtin University Dementia Centre of Excellence;
- $18 million for Charles Sturt University and Western Sydney University to establish an Institute for Regional, Rural and Remote Health and Medical Research at Orange;
- $5 million to The University of Melbourne for the Greek Centre Hub; and
- $4.7 million over five years to support The University of Newcastle’s research projects into treatments for contaminated water and soil.