Universities are worried the federal government’s planned cuts will hit disadvantaged communities the hardest.
A new analysis of the planned higher education overhaul shows universities will collectively lose $1.16 billion in base funding over the next four years from the so-called efficiency dividend the government wants to impose.
Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson says this highlights the significant impact of the cuts on the sector – one far from the benign impact she believes the government is trying to portray.
“It will have a particularly severe impact on those universities that serve some of the most disadvantaged communities,” she told AAP on Sunday.
These universities tended to be younger and smaller, without large cash reserves or the ability to attract the kind of big donations older institutions could, she said.
In NSW, Western Sydney University – which caters to many low-socio economic status students who are often the first in their family to attend university – comes out as the biggest loser, set to cop a $54.1 million cut over the next four years, Universities Australia figures provided to a Senate committee examining the government’s package show.
However, half the 10 universities that will be hit with the biggest cuts in absolute terms are in the prestigious, research-intensive Group of Eight.
Education Minister Simon Birmingham said university funding had been a “river of gold” for nearly a decade and was set to keep growing another 23 per cent over the next four years.
“As you’d expect from a lobby group, this shows only one part of the picture,” he said of the Universities Australia analysis.
The minister pointed to education department analysis showing per-student funding would be higher in 2020 than in 2011, although the modelling also shows it would be lower than in 2010 or any year from 2012 on.
The Innovative Research Universities group of six institutions disputed the government modelling, saying it was “over-egged”.
It says much of the touted increase in per-student funding since 2010 has come from universities enrolling more students in higher cost courses.
At the same time, that change means institutions have to spend more to cover those students’ study because government payments for these courses are not indexed at a rate that keeps up with costs.
“Students need better resourced universities, not to pay more for less,” the IRU says.
It estimates its members will lose $43 million by 2021 under the government changes.
As well as the efficiency dividend, the government plans to lift student fees by up to $3600 over a four-year degree and link a portion of university funding to performance and transparency measures.
The Senate committee is expected to table its report on the package on Wednesday, although the legislation isn’t scheduled for debate this week.
* Monash University (Vic) – $57.4 million cut over four years
* Western Sydney University (NSW) – $54.1 million
* The University of Queensland (Qld) – $54 million
* The University of Sydney (NSW) – $51.7 million
* Deakin University (Vic) – $50.3 million
* Queensland University of Technology (Qld) – $47.7 million
* University of New South Wales (NSW) – $47.4 million
* Griffith University (Qld) – $47.3 million
* University of Melbourne (Vic) – $46.5 million
* RMIT University (Vic) – $44.3 million
* Curtin University of Technology (WA) – $41 million
(Source: Universities Australia)