Vice-Chancellor of the University of Technology Sydney (UTS), Professor Attila Brungs today expressed disappointment that universities and particularly their students would be worse off under the Government's proposed budget changes. However he also noted that the package included positive and robust sector reform particularly in relation to sub-bachelor and postgraduate places.
"Despite there being much evidence that investment in higher education creates jobs, improves society, and helps build future prosperity for all Australians, our treasury and financial political leaders obviously see education simply as a cost that can be cut whenever they need to balance the ledger," he said.
"Our Government is missing an opportunity to set up our country for future prosperity. Money put into education is an investment in the knowledge infrastructure critical to our nation's future that repays itself many times over especially in relation to jobs and innovation. At a time when the very nature of work itself is changing due to technological change, we have a narrow window of opportunity as a society to create a future economy that places Australia in a great position globally."
Professor Brungs pointed to increased costs to students, which could act as a disincentive to pursue university study for those concerned about carrying significant debt.
"Asking students to take on more debt, and then expecting them to pay it back earlier could have negative consequences," he said. "Reducing the repayment threshold will adversely affect those earning little more than the minimum wage, and is likely to disproportionately affect women."
Professor Brungs said there were, however, a number of sensible and cohesive reforms contained in the proposal which will allow the sector to better support the future needs of the nation, including:
- The continuation and enshrining in legislation of Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPP) funding to keep improving university access and participation by students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds;
- Expanding access to the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) for students in sub-bachelor courses, such as diplomas;
- Reforming the archaic current approach to the allocation of supported postgraduate places to dramatically increase student choice and drive innovation in postgraduate education at a time when high level skills are increasingly in demand; and
- Supporting, through new investment, work integrated learning opportunities for students enabling increased employment success in the dynamic future workplace.
"Despite these positive elements, the cuts will limit the university and our students' potential to support Australian society," Professor Brungs said. "So UTS will continue to make the case for investment in a smarter Australia, through our peak sector body, Universities Australia, and the Australian Technology Network, and directly to Government."