No budget biggie: universities and research all but ignored

 Higher education is close to invisible in the budget

There are small sums around the traps, including:

$93.7m for scholars for 4700 Australian and international students to study at regional unis

$15.8m to expand the VET unique student identifier to higher education

$71.6m to remit HECS for new teachers who work in remote schools for four years

There are also eight specific commitments to individual universities, worth $200m over four-seven years, notably, $60m for James Cook U for a tropical enterprise centre.

There is some money for training, with $523m over five years, including;

$132m for a National Skills Commission, apparently an idea in the just released Joyce report on VET

$200m for apprentice incentives in “areas of identified skills needs”

And as usual in research, medicos are the big winners, with specific research grants and an anticipated $5bn to help the Medical Research Future Fund  towards its capital target, plus smallish initiatives, including $46m over seven years for medical research infrastructure.

The Academy of Science points to some plusses; $25 million coastal and climate research, including $5 million for a dark matter research facility, and $19.5 million for a Space Infrastructure Fund.

Overall however, there is not much to say. ““With a $7.1 billion surplus announced for next financial year, now is the time to make long-term investments for Australia — by skilling our future workforce and fostering research breakthroughs to drive economic growth. In tonight’s Budget, the government has missed a prime opportunity to reverse its previous $2.1 billion freeze on student places and $328 million cuts to university research,” Universities Australia CEO Catriona Jackson said last night.

Conor King from the Innovative Research Universities described it as, “the quietest budget for some years.” Just about the  most positive thing he could find was that, at first look, there were no new cuts.

Academy of Science president John Shine was pleased with the wins but added, “it is counterintuitive to seek to produce a surplus by cutting the knowledge economy.”

However the Regional Universities Network was happy, with funding focused in its members catchments. “We recognise the government’s commitment to encourage more student places, including international students to study at regional university campuses, “ RUN chair and Federation U VC Helen Bartlett says.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations puts it bluntly; “this budget has nothing for anyone over the age of 14 and not in vocational education. Not one request made by postgraduate students to this government has been adopted.”


to get daily updates on what's happening in the world of Australian Higher Education