Canberra’s two major universities will suffer a combined funding cut of $28.9 million if the Federal Government’s higher education legislation is passed, according to the peak representative body, Universities Australia (UA).
The University of Canberra will be hit by a funding cut of $14.9 million between 2018 and 2021 and The Australian National University will lose $14 million, according to a breakdown of figures on the impact of the legislation on individual universities compiled by UA.
The Australian Catholic University, which has a campus in Canberra, will also be hit hard by a funding cut of $34.9 million according to the UA figures, which have been submitted to a senate committee reviewing the legislation.
UA estimates that Australia’s universities will lose a total of $1.2 billion in funding under the proposed higher education changes.
They say this will lead to job losses and will erode student support services, as well as weakening universities “at the very time the economy needs them to skill our future workforce and generate growth”.
“A billion-dollar cut to universities is at the heart of the higher education legislation,” UA chief executive Belinda Robinson said.
“As our economy changes and old industries face new threats, Australia needs to keep – not cut – our investment in universities to create new jobs, new industries and new sources of income for Australia.
“And funding cuts that erode quality risk undermining the $24 billion in export earnings that our universities help to bring into Australia by educating international students.”
Ms Robinson said that careful analysis has confirmed how deeply the funding cuts would force universities to cut staff jobs and student support services.
“The grim reality is that if these cuts are passed, most institutions do not have capacity to absorb them. At every university, students would pay more to get less,” she said.
The Group of Eight of Australia’s leading research universities, which includes the ANU, has called on the senate to block the proposals for further funding cuts.
The Group of Eight’s board says the cuts will “mean students pay more for less and leave universities with less capacity to assist those who most need it”.
Speaking on the ABC’s AM program recently Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham defended the proposed legislation.
“These are modest changes that ensure financial sustainability in terms of the equity of access to Australian universities,” Senator Birmingham said.
“They slightly slow the rate of growth in funding to universities over the next couple of years, but there will still be a 23 per cent growth in relation to university revenue for teaching and learning over the course of the forward estimates period.
“That’s quite strong growth in terms of revenue those universities will get, and we’re guaranteeing continued access for Australian students without upfront fees,” he said.
“And we want to make sure that is locked in for the future, which is why we have to deal with a very significant cost rise in relation to universities over recent years, which has put real pressure on the federal budget. And that’s why we’re seeking to make it a more sustainable setting in the long term.”
Opposition education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, said that the Government wants to “cut uni funding, jack up student fees, and have lower income earners pay back HELP debts sooner”.
“Universities say this will seriously affect education quality, and deter people from going to uni,” Ms Plibersek said.
“The Liberals’ policies will be particularly bad for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, including mature age students, most of whom are women. Students in rural and regional areas will also be hit hard.”
What do you think of the proposed higher education changes? How severely will the funding cuts affect Canberra’s universities and their students? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.