Go8 on the radio: University Vice Chancellors resolve to fight cuts in their entirety

17 May 2017

Monash University Vice Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner spoke with Tom Iggulden on ABC Radio PM on Tuesday night, 16 May 2017.

TRANSCRIPT:

THOMAS ORITI: A hike in university fees and cuts to higher education funding announced in last week's budget are facing growing opposition. University vice chancellors resolved today to fight the cuts in their entirety after a meeting of Universities Australia, giving the Senate crossbench political backing to vote against them when legislation comes to a vote. Monash University vice chancellor Margaret Gardner is the chairperson of the group, and she told political reporter Tom Iggulden the cuts don't chime with the Government's pro-jobs message.

MARGARET GARDNER: If that was your reason for providing company tax cuts, why would you cut the funding to one of Australia's future engines of growth?

TOM IGGULDEN: So, is that the position of Universities Australia, that there should be no cuts to funding, or are you prepared to wear some cuts, just smaller than the ones that were announced last week?

MARGARET GARDNER: The unanimous position of the vice chancellors of Universities Australia was that we are against the proposal to lift student fees, and we are against the proposals to cut funding to universities.

TOM IGGULDEN: There was a bit of preannouncing before the budget about the level, for example, at which some vice chancellors are getting paid, the fact that contributions to the universities have far exceeded actually operating costs. Do those sorts of things make you feel as though perhaps universities are being made out to be the bad guy here?

MARGARET GARDNER: Let me take that contention that universities funding is far outweighing operating costs. Those statements were based on a study undertaken by Deloitte for the Government. They were done with data supplied by the universities in good faith. I think it is incumbent on those who quote those figures to note that that very study says they do not tell you what has been asserted by the Minister and other members of the Government. Those studies do not tell you that universities have ample money to cover their operating costs. They were studies of relevant teaching costs. In the amounts there that were ignored was the funding for everything else that universities do beyond teaching, which includes research, which includes running their administration, which includes the services they provide to the community, from their sporting facilities, through their museums, through their performing arts centres. That statement, that we are able to fund more, we have a great surplus over operating costs on the basis of that study, is inaccurate and one that is refuted by the study itself.

TOM IGGULDEN: So, to come back to part of that question, do you feel as though you are being made out to be the bad guys here to help curry favour for these cuts from the Government?

MARGARET GARDNER: Well, I think it was unfortunate that a minister should suggest that we were spending money not in ways which were to the benefit of the future of education and research in Australia's universities. I think that was unnecessary; I think it was inaccurate.

TOM IGGULDEN: Just wanted to pick up on one of the little reported aspects of what was put forward in the legislation, and that is this idea of a voucher system that would allow postgraduate places to be withheld based on sort of fairly loosely defined performance models and those sorts of things. What are your concerns there?

MARGARET GARDNER: A voucher system is a major shift in the way Commonwealth Government funding comes to universities. It's a little unfortunate that we have a proposal that is one that makes a major shift in the system and yet it's done with none of the detail being available, and with none of the consultation about what will happen, how will this actually operate.

THOMAS ORITI: Vice chancellor Margaret Gardner of Universities Australia speaking with Tom Iggulden.

To listen, follow link below.