“Universities are essential infrastructure to grow Australian skills, jobs, exports and productivity,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.
“The Government’s central theme for this Budget is to grow Australian jobs and expand opportunity – yet cuts to universities and students run directly counter to that vision.”
“Investments in university education and research help all Australians in the transition to a new economic era.”
As the nation’s third largest export sector, universities contribute more than they receive – they are not a drag on the Budget.
The $2.8 billion in cuts to higher education – announced last Monday – come on top of almost $4 billion that universities and students have already contributed to Budget repair since 2011.
“Cuts to universities and increases in fees would be a double whammy for students. The risk is that students would pay more to get less, as cuts force universities to reassess the programs and services they can offer.”
The Budget proposals include ‘efficiency dividend’ cuts of 2.5 per cent in 2018 and 2019. This cut is bigger than it looks and its effect is permanent: from 2019 onwards, Government funding for university places would be 4.8 per cent lower than current levels.
The Budget also proposes to withhold a further 7.5 per cent of funding for ‘performance’ payments.
“We welcome the Government’s commitment to work with the sector to develop those performance measures and to maintain the ability of universities to plan with confidence.”
As significant employers of international talent, universities will also seek urgent clarification on the proposed visa levy to fund skilled apprenticeships.
“We are disappointed there was no allocation of capital funding for national research infrastructure in the Budget.”
The Government will develop a Research Investment Infrastructure Plan, drawing on the National Research Infrastructure Roadmap, which is yet to be released.
“The sector will continue to urge a rethink by Government on plans to close the $3.7 billion Education Investment Fund – the last remaining source of infrastructure funding for universities.”
We have welcomed proposals to support disadvantaged students, payments for student work placements, and a proposal to expand student access to associate degrees and diplomas.
Universities also welcome the announcement tonight that the Government intends to begin disbursing funds from the Medical Research Future Fund in the coming year.
We look forward to announcements in coming days about the competitive bid process to enable universities to advance preventative health research, research translation and clinical trials.
Other measures include:
- $26.1 million over four years to maintain Australia’s capability in optical astronomy and become a partner in the European Southern Observatory;
- A $68 million investment in a proton beam facility at the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute precinct;
- $101.5 million for an Advanced Manufacturing Fund, including $20 million to expand the Cooperative Research Centre Projects;
- $24 million over four years for a Rural and Regional Enterprise Scholarships program; and
- $12.5 million over six years for the central coast health and medical campus at the University of Newcastle.