Government funding more students –  there’s a wait

It will take years to make up the cost of previous cuts

Mark Warburton explains what the Job Ready Graduates involves, in a new paper for Uni Melbourne’s Centre for the Study of Higher Education.

Announcing the JRG funding model last June then education minister Dan Tehan said the it would provide 39 000 additional places by 2023 and 100 000 by 2030 (CMM June 19 2020).

Back then attention was focused on the increase in CSP funding for courses the government approves of (science for example) and reductions for those it doesn’t (humanities and business). But Mr Warburton ventured deep into the policy weeds to identify  a bigger issue, the government is not providing enough money to deliver the promised places, at least not in the short and medium terms.

The shortfall flows flows from the 2018-19 funding freeze and a below inflation 2020 increase for places. And people enrolled in degrees prior to 2021 which cost more under the new model, will keep paying the old rate.

Mr Warburton argues in great detail that the impact of funding changes since 2018 has under-delivered by the funding equivalent of 39 000 places this year and there is no funding for the 27 000 additional places promised under JRG. He estimates that the subsidy shortfall will decline over time but that in 2024 there still will be 14 000 fewer places than promised. He also estimates how long it will take for government funding for student places to reach the 2014-17 benchmark (2023) and to support its promised new places (2026).

“If the Government was genuinely concerned to ensure that universities were able to support Australia’s economic recovery, it could have put in place a policy that was both more effective and simpler than JRG. As a first step, it could have ensured that it provided the subsidies to support the student load already in the system in 2019,” he argues.

Mr Warburton also looks at the impact of specific targeted funding, including.

Universities trading Commonwealth Supported Places: “It is quite extra-ordinary for a government to put in place a policy that allows a government subsidy being provided for the benefit of a person to be arbitraged by a service provider.”

Short course: “The extent to which there is a serious policy agenda underlying short course funding is unclear,” Mr Warburton suggests, pointing to graduate certificates which may be “little more than excisions from PG qualifications.” He warns that most short courses will cease, for want of funding.