Unis Aus takes control of the “nation interest test”

Universities Australia has got in ahead of expected research funding cuts with a new comms campaign, one which takes control of Dan Tehan’s national interest test.

whats coming: In November Education Minister Dan Tehan announced $135m over four years (or $151m if previously committed funding was included) for regional universities, to be funded by “capping the growth funding for the Research Support Program.” Details are expected in Tuesday’s Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

why it’s a worry: Yesterday UA warned that any cuts will come on top of news in October that public research spending as a per centage of GDP is expected to be 0.51 per cent by June next year, way down on 0.67 per cent in 2012.

and not just for universities: UA adds today that the share of such a fall born by its members is a very bad for all Australians.

Cuts to university research funding are cuts to Australia’s ability to deliver desperately-needed research breakthroughs, cures, treatments and life-changing programs,” CE Catriona Jackson says.  “Every patient group, every family with a child falling behind at school, every farming community, indeed every single Australian – has a stake in keeping the uni research breakthroughs coming.”

UA explains why: to make its point the lobby is launching a new comms campaign, “university research changes lives”. The three two-minute spots for social media, feature cervical cancer vaccine’s Ian Frazer (UoQ), RMIT brain scientist Richard Williams and Monash U family law, family violence academic Becky Batagol, talking about their work, with equal billing for people they have helped.

and it’s hard to argue with: it’s a much tightly targeted message than UA’s 2014 “keep it clever”  campaign which urged, “let’s keep it clever Australia. Support our universities so we don’t get left behind.”

The people who have survived cervical cancer, brain damage and domestic violence in the new campaign are more powerful advocates than cartoon penguins which featured in the former. And they make a case for research that is hard for government to ignore. Let’s see Minister Tehan argue that keeping people safe from disease and violence isn’t in the national interest. And watch as UA applies  the campaign to research in multiple discipline area.

Yes, the campaign, so far, ignores pure research, (although it explains research takes time) but doing so denies  opponents of research the opportunity to take cheap shots.



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