Universities Australia has warned the government that “enough is enough” and the sector should not be hit by further cuts in the upcoming budget.
The organisation published figures showing that universities and students have contributed A$3.9 billion (£2.3 billion) to government measures to address the budget deficit since 2011.
Belinda Robinson, Universities Australia chief executive, said of the federal budget scheduled for 9 May: “Enough is enough. Universities and their students have already done more than their fair share of budget repair.
“In this context, it is difficult to justify further cuts that would affect student affordability and put at risk the quality of education and research on which Australia’s prosperity depends.”
Press reports had previously indicated that the government is set to drop the 20 per cent funding cut that has remained on the table since a proposal to deregulate tuition fees – later abandoned – was announced in 2014.
A funding cut of 3 per cent was instead expected via an “efficiency dividend”, along with higher fees for students.
But Universities Australia’s intervention suggests that there remains significant anxiety about the government’s plans for the sector.
“Beyond the impact on Australian students and research, further cuts would put in jeopardy our success as a powerhouse provider of international education, which contributes A$22.4 billion a year to the Australian economy and is our third largest export,” Ms Robinson said.
She said the government “needs to look at the nature of its investment in universities and be clear that it is actually delivering a significant benefit for the nation…We [education] are the third largest export industry.”