Sunday, April 14, 2013

Cut in Federal Funding for Australian Universities

Craig Emerson , Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, announced a $300M cut in annual university funding, in a "Statement on Higher Education", 13 Apr 2013. Also students will no longer receive a 10% discount on university fees for upfront payment and start-up scholarships will be replaced with repayable loans. A Fact Sheet with more details is available. The funding is to be redirected to primary and secondary education.

These cuts are relatively small, but do come at a time when universities are under threat from new technology. We are likely to see 75% of university education move on-line in the next five years. The question is if this will be a move of students from Australian physical campuses to Australian virtual ones,  rather than see 75% of Australian tertiary education disappear overseas. Australian universities need to make a large investment in re-training of staff, re-equipment and reconfiguration of buildings now, to remain competitive. This will be more difficult with fewer funds, although a reduction in funding may provide the rationale the vice-chancellors need to make rapid changes.

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