Ahead of tonight’s Budget, an Essential poll found that 56% of respondents disapproved of the proposed cuts to universities, and 60% disapproved of proposed increases in student fees.
“Clearly many people do see the link between investments in universities and the future growth and prosperity of the country,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson
“They also see the disconnect between proposals to cut funding for higher education and the urgent task for Australia to skill up our people, create new jobs through research, and boost productivity.”
“The poll shows a significant level of disapproval given many voters are still to turn their minds to these issues in more detail.”
In the poll, fifty-seven per cent of people agreed that delivering a business tax cut at the same time as cutting university funding showed “the wrong priorities”.
Only one third agreed that the higher education changes were needed to reduce the Budget deficit.
Universities Australia released analysis ahead of the Budget which found that universities and their students had already contributed almost $4 billion to Budget repair since 2011.
“The Government has said the Budget can afford to provide a company tax break because it would help Australia to be globally competitive and drive growth and productivity,” Ms Robinson said.
“Exactly the same arguments apply to universities, which deliver productivity and growth through education and research – and sustain Australia’s third largest export.”
Universities generate two-thirds of the $22 billion in income for Australia that flows from educating international students.
While the university sector does not support the cuts to universities and students in the package, it has welcomed other important measures on equity and workplace readiness.
These include proposals to safeguard the national program that supports disadvantaged students, payments for work placements to ensure graduates are job-ready, and a proposal to expand student access to associate degrees and diplomas before attempting a full bachelor’s degree.