June 8, 2017

IRU Urges Senate to Reject Higher Education Legislation

In its submission to the Senate Education Committee the IRU calls on the Senate to reject the Government’s Higher Education Support Legislation Amendment Bill 2017.

“How can we ask students to contribute more to get less in return?” asks Professor Colin Stirling, IRU Chair and Vice-Chancellor of Flinders University.

“The package will harm education and research outcomes.”

“It is simply wrong to say universities can afford a cut. We do not make profits but create annual surpluses to invest in renewal of what we do and the resources that let us do it. Surpluses enable us to educate the graduates our economy requires into the future,” Professor Stirling said.

“Year by year the value of funding is intentionally eroded through under indexation. Universities do not need an additional ‘efficiency dividend’ when the index has imposed one annually since 1997.”

“The current proposals will decimate Commonwealth support for University education with a 10.5% reduction in the Commonwealth Grant Scheme. Some of this cost would be shifted to students through increased fees but the shortfall will mean an inevitable reduction in services to students.

“A further 7.5% of Government of base grant will be subject to performance outcomes through a mechanism that has yet to be described and according to undefined metrics that might change from year to year. No case has been made that this system will improve outcomes for all students enrolled in Australian universities.

“The size of the performance fund is out of balance with the pressure already on universities to attract students and the suite of information now available to guide student choice.”

“We support accountability. We support publishing performance data.  We don’t need a performance fund that punishes students because their university does not meet targets”.

“The Australian Government investment in Universities is low by international standards while our students are already paying some of the highest fees in the world for public university education,” he said.

Universities have achieved significant structural change in how they use revenue, tightly constraining recurrent costs, notably staffing, to avoid running down into institutions incapable of meeting future demands.

“Universities need a reasonable resource per student. This Package does not deliver it” Professor Stirling concluded.