Over the last twelve months, the Coalition has inflicted damaging cuts of $2.1 billion to funding for student places and $328 million worth of cuts to university research.
Universities Australia Chief Executive, Catriona Jackson, released a statement that these cuts are a bad decision, noting that Western Australia, Queensland, Tasmania, and South Australia, are all lagging behind the national average of young people with a university education.
“Young people in regional Australia are still only half as likely to have a university education. This divide will deepen as funding cuts bite,” said Ms Jackson.
Findings of a research commissioned by UNSW Sydney show that most people don’t support the idea of capping places for domestic students. With nearly three-quarters of Australians believing that university education is important for your career prospects, it’s not surprising that 86 per cent of 18-34 year olds want to see the next Government review the tertiary education system.
In her address to the National Press Club, Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner said Australians are right to fear cuts to university research funding, as it means that researchers will be less able to find pursue life-saving and environment-saving breakthroughs. She believes that these cuts are “a direct assault on our country’s capabilities”.
The Education Investment Fund (EIF), is the last remaining fund for education and research infrastructure, however the fund is currently under threat, as there are plans for it to be repurposed to create the Coalition’s proposed Emergency Response Fund.
Ms Jackson (UA Chief Executive) has said that an advanced nation such as Australia should be able to invest in an emergency response fund without reducing investment towards research infrastructure.
“Cutting edge research — the kind that changes the lives of everyday Australians through medical and social breakthroughs — needs cutting edge infrastructure to make it happen,” she said. “Surely with a $7.1 billion surplus this is not an either/or proposition.”