The Federal Government has decided not to meet additional university funding requirements, citing a reluctance to increase student debt as the reason, despite a long wait for its response to a 2011 report recommending that it should.
Minister for Tertiary Education Senator Chris Evans has finally issued a statement with regard to the Higher Education Base Funding Review final report commissioned by the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.
The report, submitted by an expert panel chaired by recent Australia Day honours recipient Dr Jane Lomax-Smith AM, recommended that "The average level of base funding per place should be increased to improve the quality of higher education teaching and to maximise the sector’s potential to contribute to national productivity and economic growth."
Evans claimed that from 2008-2011 the Rudd/Gillard Government "invested more than $43.2 billion in core university funding" and from 2012 to 2015 that amount would be $58.9 billion. He also referred to an independent 2012 Ernst & Young report that showed funding per university student place "had increased by 10 percent, or almost $2,000, because of the Gillard Government's reforms."
The Opposition universities and research spokesperson Senator Brett Mason said that investment was not enough compared to the government's push to increase student numbers. "The government's rapid expansion of student numbers while ignoring the review's conclusion that the current base funding is inadequate, risks quality and standards and the long-term viability of educational brand Australia," said Mason.
Lomax-Smith also expressed disappointment but outlined the difficulty of universities' dual role as educators and research institutions when she pointed out that the government is prioritising other parts of the system, "particularly the uncapping of undergraduate places. Additional funding is being directed into that."
Read the Higher Education Base Funding Review (PDF)
Read Senator Chris Evans' response to the review.
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