The Government has stated and re-stated that its 2017 Federal Budget is one based on values and choices. Through the Budget the Government has chosen to support what it values – and this is not the university sector.
The Group of Eight (Go8) which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, with six of its members ranked in the world’s top 100, says the Budget is a demonstrable negative for higher education, with the university and banking sectors the big targets.
“This week’s Budget impact therefore makes a mockery of the Government statement that “we are all in this together. We are not.
“This targeted financial attack on our universities and our students now goes before a Senate Committee. The Go8 urges the Committee to please look closely at what has occurred as we, along with the banks, are made to suffer financially, and unlike the banks, universities have no way to claw back the financial damage,” said Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Go8.
“It is an inglorious portent of what the future holds for Australian universities when declared Coalition values of educating a workforce for the new economy, and valuing university research, set publicly by the Prime Minister himself less than two years ago, are so expediently ditched,” she said.
“We need the Senate Committee to analyse what has happened in context; to understand the ramifications of this within Australia for our domestic students and our research effort, and the negative message it sends to our overseas markets of international students.
“We have now reached a tipping point. It remains the fact that we receive less than half of our university funding from Government and this has forced us to be heavily reliant on alternative sources of income to fund the nation building research we must undertake.
“In that context, and on top of the $3.9 billion in cuts we have suffered since 2011, our sector has surely done our fair share of the heavy lifting for Budget repair. We are damaged,” said Ms Thomson. “The status quo was more than the limit of what we could absorb.
“No Senate Committee wants to be the Committee that failed to recognise the consequence of poor policy; policy that will most definitely affect the communities they represent, maybe not tomorrow but certainly in the next couple of years,” she said.
“We intend to advise the Committee that the Go8 has total commitment to the quality education of our students, but that their experience will be affected by the Budget cuts, and by this Budget’s changes to their loan repayments. The Go8 is confident we give our students a world class education that represents great value for their investment. However, when you look at how much students are paying for their education in this country, they’re paying more than most of the OECD. We have to ask if the increase to student fees, in that context, is fair and just?”
Ms Thomson said the Senate Committee provides the Go8 with a window of opportunity to ask for nothing more than the fairness and values the Government claims to be delivering. “The choice is clear, send a message to the world that Australia, unlike its competitor nations, has chosen not to value university students, teaching and research, or reconsider the policy positions.”