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Go8 Media Release: Government Senate tactics hitting a new low: they indicate total disregard for Australia’s university students, export earnings and an abandonment of principles of good Government

The Group of Eight (Go8) which represents Australia’s leading research intensive universities with more than 360,000 students condemns the Turnbull Government’s desperate win-at-all-costs Senate tactics.

“After weeks of misleading and disingenuous accusations against the university sector, Education Minister Simon Birmingham is showing total disregard and disrespect for higher education and the students the sector serves,” says Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson.

“Determined to shoe-horn such critical Senate debate into a 72-hour window means only one thing,” she says. “That the funding cuts he has promised his Cabinet colleagues are more important to him than his Ministerial responsibility of protecting university students and the sustainably funded future of universities which deliver Australia an almost $24 billion export sector that sustains tens of thousands of jobs across the economy. It also indicates he is not confident his arguments can withstand proper scrutiny – he would be right in that. There has been no systems thinking and little consultation going into the formulation of this package.”

Ms Thomson said it was surely time for the facts of the funding cuts to be represented honestly.

“First the sector is not asking for more funds, but pleading on behalf of their students not to have funds cut yet again whilst paying more themselves.

“Put very simply: The government is cutting their contribution to an individual student place by 10%. They are then asking the students to cover 7.5% of that shortfall and leaving 2.5% for universities to find. A student studying towards a business degree is already paying over 80% of the course fees – when is enough enough?

“Second, we keep hearing about magical rivers of gold we will receive from Government. No. Virtually all of this growth is in the increase to HELP loans to students – which they have to pay back from their own pockets – not from the Government coffers. Exclude that – as the OECD does – and the increase to 2021 is just 5%.

“There is a litany of further mischievous statements universities and their students have had to contend with in recent months. There is no good public policy direction here. This package does not address the fact that we have a broken funding model for our universities. It is desperate politics unbecoming of any Government that suggests it supports higher education and research.

“If there is anyone in the Senate who does not want to take the sector’s word for it, then please consider the powerful independent warning against the funding cuts last week (read around the world) from one of the most respected university global rankings agencies The Times Higher Education’s Phil Baty. “This was the equivalent of a Moody’s warning. We ignore it at our peril.

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

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