A better system for regional Universities
For all the emotional language about university funding changes the Turnbull Government has announced, it's important to inject some facts amidst the scaremongering (Ballarat MP slams cuts to universities, 20/12). Per student funding from the Federal Government last year was at a record $11,637. In real terms that's well above levels in previous years when all our universities were running surpluses. What's more, at the same time per student funding grew by 15 per cent, costs for universities to deliver courses only jumped 9.5 per cent. Indeed, independent analysis from Deloitte highlights that universities divert 15 percent of the funding taxpayers give them for teaching to other endeavours, like administration and marketing. That's more than doubled from just 6 percent in 2010. Reports show that in the last seven years Australia's universities splashed $1.7 billion on marketing and advertising. How much of that was from taxpayers? The facts are Federal funding has grown and student numbers have rapidly increased as the 'demand driven system' of uncapped student places was introduced. The growth in funding beyond costs should have delivered efficiencies, which some experts predict could save universities $500 million a year. The Turnbull Government's plan to freeze just one stream of university funding for two years still means universities can enrol more students by making use of that 15 per cent teaching funding they appear to have been diverting. There is no reason that universities could not tap into that 15 percent of funding and grow enrolments in courses they see as having strong student demand or employment outcomes. From 2020, we'll grow funding at the rate of population increases and tie it to performance metrics to ensure our universities are focused on tackling issues that have emerged such as declining completion rates and employment outcomes. Universities should be asking themselves what their spending priorities are if not to use the record funding we've been providing to best support their students.
Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, Senator for South Australia