STEM would be 'hardest hit' by Australian cuts

UA warns government plans counteract its own science and innovation agenda

August 30, 2017
Australian parliament
Source: iStock
Australian parliament

Science, technology, engineering and maths courses would be hardest hit by the government’s planned cuts to university funding, according to Universities Australia.

Analysis from the sector’s representative body said STEM disciplines would bear 35 per cent of the A$1.2 billion (£740 million) in cuts.

UA looked at subject balance and public funding for those courses, then applied the government’s planned 2.5 per cent “efficiency dividend”, to derive the figure. Students will also have to pay higher fees under the plans.

“As Australia’s economy transitions into a new high-tech era, scientific skills and literacy are going to be foundational for many more future careers,” said UA chief executive Belinda Robinson.

“In the next five years alone, there are expected to be an extra 126,000 scientific and technical jobs that will need higher qualifications.

“If we want Australia to be a STEM powerhouse, we can’t afford to cut public funding to train future scientists while also making science students pay more.

“This also runs counter to the government’s own science and innovation agenda, which recognises the need for STEM skills more broadly across our economy.”

The government’s measures are part of its budget and include a 2.5 per cent cut in university funding, a 7.5 per cent increase in tuition fees and plans to allocate 7.5 per cent of funding on a teaching performance-contingent basis.

The plans will come down to votes in the Senate, where the Liberal-led government does not have a majority.

john.morgan@timeshighereducation.com

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