Australian university research reportedly faces new cuts as the federal government redistributes money to the country’s cash-strapped regional higher education sector.
The government was announcing a A$134 million package (£75 million) to bankroll university places, study hubs and scholarships for regional and remote students.
However, the ABC reported that the funding had been reallocated from a research support programme for university grants. University research has already been thrown into confusion in the aftermath of former education minister Simon Birmingham’s vetoing of grants for humanities research.
Details are expected to become clearer when the government outlines its package at the University of the Sunshine Coast, in southern Queensland, on 12 November.
USC will be among the beneficiaries of the latest funding reallocation, receiving A$30 million for its Caboolture and Fraser Coast campuses. The university also obtained a A$69 million grant last February for its new Moreton Bay campus, in one of three deals the government struck in breach of the funding freeze it announced in December last year.
Federation University in regional Victoria and James Cook University in far north Queensland, both of which recorded deficits last year, have also been earmarked extra funding under the latest arrangements. FU will receive A$41 million for its Berwick campus while JCU will be granted an extra A$9 million.
Central Queensland University will also receive an additional A$9 million, while the University of Newcastle in New South Wales will be allocated A$3 million for its Central Coast Medical School and Research Institute.
The government will also spend A$34 million to more than double the number of scholarships for regional and remote students over four years, adding an additional 1,955 to the 1,200 currently available.
A further A$8 million will be directed towards 16 regional study hubs in 22 locations. This is additional to A$17 million the government allocated for similar purposes in its May budget.
The government will also commit to the development of a regional, rural and remote higher education strategy as recommended earlier this year by the Independent Review into Regional, Rural and Remote Education.
An expert advisory group, headed by former Victorian premier Denis Napthine, will be formed to drive the strategy and outline priorities for action, including the possible appointment of a rural education commissioner to oversee the strategy’s implementation.
Regional universities were among those hit hardest by the December funding freeze, and – unlike their big metropolitan counterparts – they have been unable to compensate by recruiting large numbers of fee-paying international students.