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Media release: Horse-trading between Research and Equity will undermine Australia’s future economic prosperity

Australia needs more, not less investment in research and development. The cuts to university research funding outlined in the Mid-Year Economic and Financial Outlook (MYEFO) will have significant consequences for Australia’s economic future and undermine our world class research sector.

MYEFO contains over $102 million in cuts to university research including by reducing the Australia’s Economic Accelerator program by $46.2 million and cancelling the Regional Research Collaboration Program to save $56.3 million. The combined savings of over $102 million from research matches the additional funding MYEFO contains for priority measures out of the Australian University Accord in a zero-sum outcome that sells Australia’s future short.

Group of Eight (Go8) Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said, ‘giving with one hand while taking away with the other will not deliver the tertiary education sector Australia needs to be a prosperous, globally competitive and innovative country.

“Australia’s Economic Accelerator was set up to support the translation and commercialisation of world leading university research. Go8 universities undertake 70 percent of the nation’s university research and generate more research commercialisation income than CSIRO. These cuts will impact the capacity of researchers to deliver what Australia needs for the future and meet our national priorities.

“The government appears to be choosing between increased equity and access in the higher education sector and support for research that will generate the jobs and economic opportunities for the graduates of the future the Accord is designed to support. Both are critical and should not be traded off against one another.

“The goals of participation, access and equity are important and must be addressed as a matter of priority, however there must also be an equal focus on funding research. University research is critical to Australia’s future economic, environmental, and community well-being.

“When the Government has committed to lift investment in R&D to 3 percent of GDP, it makes no sense to raid existing funding programs. Australian investment in R&D has been in freefall. National expenditure has declined to 1.7 per cent of GDP – only two-thirds of the OECD average. Business and Government investment in research is unchanged over the last decade while higher education research spending has increased by 43%. Universities, and in particular Go8 universities – have picked up the slack, largely from international student fee revenue.

“These cuts combined with flawed policy proposals such as taxing international student fee revenue undermine our international reputation and have long term consequences for Australia’s future economic prosperity.”

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155