Funding signs in the budget skies

Alan Tudge speaks up for research

The Education Minister was up in the Reps yesterday, speaking for an education bill which includes a routine increase in caps on ARC grant funding – which he thinks is a very good thing indeed, citing specific projects related to COVID-19 the council funds.

“This bill ensures the continuing support of many thousands of jobs in Australia’s research sector, as well as many more jobs in the industries that rely on our home-grown research expertise to stay ahead of the curve. Australia’s ability to respond to the challenges of the future relies in a large part on the knowledge built from the research strength of our universities. It is in order to support and grow that strength that we bring this bill to the parliament,” the minister added.

But not so much on uni funding

However, on Sky News Mr Tudge responded to Universities Australia’s statement that its members “shed” 17 300 jobs in 2020, saying he was surprised, “because it’s a much higher number than the aggregate of what each of the universities themselves published last year which was more in the vicinity of 5000.” This, the minister was quick to add is, “still a very significant number,” but he went on to mention that universities had “significant surpluses” in previous years, greater than “what they say their loss is in 2020.”

“So, let’s put this into perspective. We keep a close eye on this, we are concerned if there’s job losses, but we also have to understand that they have had operating surpluses for many years before that,” Mr Tudge said.

Good lord, is the budget soon?

Soon enough – and the minister’s remarks struck CMM as an indication of what might be in it for HE and research. Additional funding for the latter, to make up some of the increasing loss of international student fees but nothing beyond cash for short course students and more EFTs for university managements.