April 14. 2013: - Forcing universities and their students to pay for some of the increased funding to primary and secondary schools makes little sense, James Cook University Vice Chancellor Professor Sandra Harding said.
“The increased funding for schools according to the Government is to give children ‘a flying start in life’,” Professor Harding said.
“But for more and more of them that flying start only reaches take-off when they continue to university and successfully complete their tertiary studies.”
Professor Harding said the cuts would not only impact on the teaching and research capabilities of universities but also increase the financial burden on students.
“In the past few years the Government has introduced measures to increase the number of people going to university particularly those from lower socio-economic groups but these measures will make it hard for both the sector and the students to match the Government’s aspirations.”
Professor Harding said that it was acknowledged that the Government was confronting difficult economic circumstances but cutting higher education funding was a short-term fix at the expense of long term development of the country.
“And this comes on top of the $1 billion cut to research funding announced less than six months ago, which we are still working our way through,” she said.
The moves announced by the Government on Saturday include:
An efficiency dividend of 2 per cent in 2014 and 1.25 per cent in 2015 which will cut university funding by an estimated $900 million;
Converting student start-up scholarships to a loan which will save the Government an estimated $1.2 billion; and,
Removal of the 10 per cent discount for up-front HECS payments to save the Government $228.5 million.
Professor Harding said that Government investment in higher education as a percentage of GDP was lower than the vast majority of the world’s advanced economies.
“We already sit at 25 out of 29 and these cuts will further impact both on our standing as a nation and the quality of tertiary education in Australia,” she said.
Professor Harding said that what was urgently needed was Productivity Commission review into the regulatory and reporting burden imposed on universities by governments.
“It has been estimated that this over-reporting costs universities about $280 million a year,” she said. “Addressing that as a matter of urgency would help the sector offset some of the impact of these latest cuts.”
JCU media: Jim O’Brien 07 4781 4822 or 0418 892449
Issued: April 14, 2013