Releasing it ahead of the May 9 Budget, the peak body’s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said: “Enough is enough. Universities and their students have already done more than their fair share of Budget repair.”
“In this context, it is difficult to justify further cuts that would affect student affordability and put at risk the quality of education and research on which Australia’s prosperity depends.”
Ms Robinson said the net effect of 89 previous Budget measures amounted to savings worth $3.9 billion.
Some of the major cuts between 2011-12 and 2016-17 include:
- Changes to the Student Start-up Scholarship ($1.41 billion)
- Cuts to the Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE) scheme ($648.8 million)
- Abolishing performance funding for universities ($698.5 million)
- Cuts to grants for building works under the Capital Development Pool ($298 million)
- Cuts to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program ($90.7 million)
The tally of cuts does not include a further proposed cut of $3.7 billion to the Education Investment Fund and further previously-announced cuts yet to take effect.
“Beyond the impact on Australian students and research, further cuts would put in jeopardy our success as a powerhouse provider of international education, which contributes $22.4 billion dollars a year to the Australian economy and is our third largest export,” Ms Robinson said.
Universities are a critical part of the productive infrastructure of the nation – and should be acknowledged as an investment rather than a drag on the Budget.
“Our future economic strength hinges on universities producing enough graduates with the right skills. It will also rely heavily on university research to develop new products, industries, start-ups and technologies.”
Our universities are educating a record number of Australian students, including an extra 40,500 from financially disadvantaged backgrounds who would otherwise not have gone to university.
Universities do not have capacity to absorb further cuts – they are not posting excessive surpluses. In fact, these have been declining in recent years and are required to keep universities financially secure.
“Universities are not-for-profit – but they shouldn’t be for loss either,” Ms Robinson said. “Every dollar received is reinvested back into the sector.”
“Our analysis confirms that further cuts – whether to government supported places, funding for programs that help students from disadvantaged backgrounds, the last remaining capital funding program (EIF), or research programs – could push some of Australia’s public universities into a precarious financial position.”
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