Emma Johnston made an unsurprising plea for more money and a central role in national policy for STEM research in her National Press Club address yesterday. And “a powerful and secure minister for science to rise above the short-termism and instability,” would help, the president of Science and Technology Australia added.
But Professor Johnston also warned STEM will suffer from the feds freeze on undergraduate places. In what CMM suspects is the first lobbying statement of the post demand driven funding era * Professor Johnston warned an end to open enrolments would create a national problem. (*Unless Geraldine Mackenzie got in first, above).
“The staff-to-student ratios, the specialist facilities and equipment needed for STEM education are expensive. It costs universities a lot more to grow their science student numbers than to grow enrolments in other disciplines. By moving away from demand-driven funding, the government is, in fact, dis-incentivising universities to support places for future scientists. And, if student numbers are to now remain static, the perverse incentive is to reduce STEMM student numbers and proportionally increase cheaper, non-STEM enrolments. This is what I mean by being skewered inadvertently – because there is no whole-of-government commitment to investing in science and technology. How do we build a future knowledge economy if we’re not training the workforce to drive it?”