funding Freeze Damaging to Students and Economy

18 December 2017

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) today condemned the Australian Government for its decision to freeze university funding for undergraduate places.

“Effectively signalling the end of the Demand Driven System, with no legislation or debate, this represents a significant and retrograde step” said ATN Executive Director, Renee Hindmarsh.

“By taking action through the Budget process rather than through the Parliament, universities are now faced with billions in funding cuts and no opportunity for reform. It limits not only funding, but choice,” Ms Hindmarsh said.

By freezing funding, universities will enrol fewer students or have less resources to ensure adequate support for students completing their degree.

Freezing 2017 levels cements a point in time that may not reflect the aspirations of individual institutions or the communities they serve.

“This freeze on funding will prevent universities from meeting the targets set in the Bradley review for participation in higher education – Queensland, Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory are all well below the aspirational target.

“Announcing this decision so close to Christmas, after students have already been offered places for 2018, seems particularly uncharitable. The cuts will be felt by existing students and limit students in future years”.

Disadvantaged students will be hit hardest by this decision. Not enough university enrolments at undergraduate level come from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds.

Debate about higher education funding has largely focused on the increased costs since the introduction of the demand driven system. We accept that higher education does not exist in an economic vacuum. But this debate should also recognise the social and economic contribution universities make to society, yet this has been overlooked.

“Limiting the number of people with higher education qualifications will have disastrous effects on our economy, and our ability as a society to embrace the changing nature of work. It will deepen social divisions” said Ms Hindmarsh.

The Australian Technology Network of Universities will continue to advocate for a system that promotes access and aspiration so that our society, not just parts of it, is well equipped to deal with the challenges of the 21st Century.

“The ATN urges the Government to thaw the freeze on funding and ensure higher education remains accessible to all.”