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Go8 Media Release: Cold hard light of day reveals ‘back in black’ budget gloom for nation’s research effort

The Group of Eight (Go8) which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, has warned that the Government’s ‘back in black’ budget will further impede the national research effort of Australia’s universities and undermine economic growth.

Go8 Chief Executive, Vicki Thomson said the budget detail reveals cuts to the Australian Research Council (ARC), the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), the Research Block Grants program and the abolition of the $3.9 billion-dollar Education Investment Fund to fund the Emergency Response Fund.

“The Go8 is not saying something as important as an Emergency Response Fund should not be funded, only that when Government is trumpeting a surplus it is a mockery to then have to redirect funds rather than use available funds,” Ms Thomson said. “Worryingly, ARC funding has been cut in each of the next three years and by the end of the forward estimates the level of funding to the ARC will be less than it was a decade earlier.”

“The Government has very clearly drawn a line in the sand with this Budget, forgoing investment in a sector which underpins a $35 billion international education industry.  Despite Go8 research returning almost $10 for every $1 of taxpayer investment, university research is being consistently starved of Government funds. Of the $6.4 billion of research the Go8 conducted in 2016 the Government contributed just $2.0 billion in direct research funding.

By his own admission just last week, Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan acknowledged that a “strong university research sector makes Australia stronger.”

“What the Government has failed to address in this year’s budget is that Science, Research and Innovation (SRI) funding from Government has dropped from 0.67 per cent of GDP to 0.51 per cent of GDP over the last seven years according to the most recent SRI budget tables. This is a reduction in funding of $1.1 billion in real terms – a cut of 10%. With approximately 63% of Australia’s researchers in the Higher Education sector it is in universities that this funding decline has the greatest impact.

“Universities have proven they can be relied upon.  Our 27 years of economic growth in Australia has been underpinned by one of the world’s best higher education and research systems.  Yet despite this the Government has failed to back the sector in a year of budget surplus,” Ms Thomson said.

“Given recent experience, it seems that in budget terms the Higher Education research sector is the first to get cut and the last to see long term, sustainable investment. This reflects an attitude of dangerous complacency towards a sector that is a key driver of Australia’s economy.”

Contact :              Vicki Thomson    Group of Eight Chief Executive   on +61 417 808 472