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Coalition attacks university funding as multimillion-dollar cuts expected in budget

Gareth Hutchens reports in The Guardian (1.5.17) that the Turnbull government’s upcoming budget is expected to significantly increase university fees and force graduates to repay student loans faster.

‘The Turnbull government is preparing the ground for multimillion-dollar funding cuts to universities in next week’s budget.

‘It is also expected to increase university fees significantly and force university graduates to pay back their loans faster, in a bid to reduce funding pressures on the commonwealth, according to reports.

‘The education minister, Simon Birmingham, has released a new report from Deloitte Access Economics, commissioned by the government, showing universities are already getting enough funding to cover the cost of teaching most degrees.

‘The report, Cost Delivery of Higher Education, looks at 17 universities and shows that, between 2010 and 2015, the average cost of delivery per student increased by 9.5%, while per student funding grew by 15% (including student contributions and commonwealth grant scheme funding).

‘It suggests the cost of delivering higher education teaching and scholarship indicates that universities have achieved economies of scale as they have experienced dramatic growth. It contradicts the claim by Universities Australia last week that universities do not have capacity to absorb further cuts.’

Higher education reform: small changes for now but big ones to come

Emmaline Bexley writes in The Conversation (2.5.17) that, hidden in the detail of the latest higher education reform package, there are hints of creating teaching-only universities.

‘The pre-budget announcement of changes to higher education funding made by Education Minister Simon Birmingham last night includes an increase in student fees of 1.8% per year between 2018 and 2021, totalling a 7.5% increase over all.

‘This will equate to a rise in fees for Australian undergraduates of $2,000 to $3,600 over the course of their degree. The repayment threshold for Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) will also be lowered.

‘These increased fees and faster repayment schedules for students will be accompanied by an “efficiency dividend”, which cuts funding for teaching by about 2.8% in 2018 and 2019 (equivalent to a A$380 million reduction in 2019).

‘For students, this means that they will need to borrow more for an education, and will pay it back sooner. And the education they pay for will be delivered by universities under increased financial stress. This is straightforward “no winners” austerity politics, common now around the developed world.’

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