“The 2023 Budget recognises that a highly skilled workforce is critical for Australia’s future, and new funding for 4000 additional university places over the next four years in STEM disciplines will help generate that workforce; especially, to support Defence priorities,” says Vicki Thomson Go8 Chief Executive.
“While the Group of Eight (Go8) very much welcomes these additional places, there is some concern that the vast research capability which is equally as critical to AUKUS Pillar 2 was not considered a priority worth inclusion. Ensuring Australian students retain the ability to attend a world class university gets a big tick, but there are definitely two aspects to our future defence capability, with research hand in hand with that highly skilled workforce with world class university training,” she said.
The focus is now on the University Accord process and future budgets to deliver on reform that will address the current distorted research funding model and lift Australia’s expenditure on R&D as a percentage of GDP to, at the least, the OECD average of 2.7 per cent. (we currently sit at 1.8 per cent).
Ms Thomson said it was clearly a Budget that had needed careful balance given the present cost of living and health pressures and the Go8 certainly supported the Government’s obvious commitment to those areas. In health, the creation of 320 additional medical places and 500 additional postgraduate psychology places is an important measure; one that would now be enhanced greatly by an ongoing expansion of the health workforce training pipeline to support Australia’s growing health needs well into the 2030s.
“The Go8’s commitment to the nation is to do everything we possibly can, especially for the defence future where we are at the front line of research capability,” she said. “As the Go8 undertakes 70 per cent of all university research, we will continue to work with the Government to ensure Australia’s required sovereign capability can be realised and on time – including the AUKUS Pillar 2 advanced capabilities that can only come through research and development.”
The Go8 also noted and supported additional small but important funding initiatives to support equity in higher education equity. These include:
- An additional $4.3 million per year for the Higher Education Disability Support Program to better engage and support students with disability to access, participate, and succeed in higher education.
- Extension by two years of the Women in STEM Cadetships and Advanced Apprenticeships program.