The Group of Eight (Go8) which represents Australia’s leading research-intensive universities and undertakes almost 70% of Australian university research activity applauds the Government’s commitment to a budget which will secure Australia’s economic recovery as we emerge from the catastrophic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic – but this won’t happen without support for Australian universities.
Universities are critical to virtually all that the Government has announced in the Budget. Whether it be through our research which will underpin industry development, to the provision of a highly skilled workforce for industry to drive those developments, through to the international connections that make sure we are competing with the world’s best and we are committed to this role,” said Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson.
“However, we can’t do this with one hand tied behind our back. Post-budget the Government will have to think through how it best supports the university sector as we, in turn, support the nation. The current system will not achieve this.
“Our biggest challenge remains – and that is ensuring we can continue to do world class research, which at its core is all about people, which will change and save lives – particularly through research related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The focus of Government must now be on the development of a long-term sustainable research funding model for universities and a clear pathway for our universities that ensures that the budget ambitions are realised.
“Strong financial management has seen some universities withstand the short-term impacts of COVID-19, however others are already in deficit and the next two years will see a further significant decline in revenue. Group of Eight universities alone lost 4000 jobs and $780 million in revenue in only the first year of COVID-19. While universities received a much welcomed one off $1 billion injection for research in the October 2020 budget, COVID-19 is not a one-off and there is a need for an ongoing plan to increase productivity in the years ahead. Universities must play a critical role in this.
“As part of this plan we need more than ever to maintain access to high-end international talent, trained at Australian universities for the Australian economy. To accomplish this, a commitment is required from the Australian Government with State Government backing, to develop a plan to bring students from low-risk countries back on campus. There must be a commitment to develop the plan and give international students some certainty. Of course, it must be done safely and not to the detriment of Australians who are desperate to return home. We need to find a way to do both.
“Go8 universities stand ready to support the Government’s budget initiatives in the national interest but need the Government to partner with the sector by supporting us as we do so,” said Ms Thomson.