The return of unfunded undergraduate places

With university offers out, Universities Australia warns modelling shows 9 500 students will commence study this year without public funding for their places. The government’s surprise announcement before Christmas that it would freeze undergraduate enrolments at the 2017 level gave universities no planning time to reduce the number of offers they would make in-line with the new funding arrangement.

“Universities are determined to honour their commitments to prospective students but our early modelling shows the scale of the funding gap inflicted by the government’s cuts,” UA chief executive Belinda Robinson says.

UA adds its modelling shows universities are caught between “a rock and a hard place.”

“The impact will vary from university to university. Some will be forced to offer fewer places in some courses to avoid a budget black hole. Others will have to dig into critical maintenance funds or will lose the funding they need to run outreach into remote and regional Australia,” Ms Robinson warns.

The Christmas cuts, on top of previous funding reductions, mean “universities will also be under pressure to enrol fewer students in expensive but crucial courses such as nursing, IT, science and engineering,” she says.

However last night Education Minister Simon Birmingham said there was nothing new about universities enrolling students without federally funded places. “Before the demand driven system, universities regularly enrolled more students than they received government funding for but still saw millions of dollars flow into their coffers from those students through HELP debts. I expect we’ll see the same enrolment behaviour.”

“Reports show that in the last seven years Australia’s universities splashed $1.7 billion on marketing and advertising. How much of that was from taxpayers? There’s no reason universities could not tap into that funding and grow enrolments they see as having strong employment outcomes,” the minister said.


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