Ballarat MP Catherine King has slammed the federal government’s decision to slash university funding in mid-year budget cuts.
The government announced $2.2 billion in cuts to the sector on Wednesday.
Ms King said the decision would see regional universities such as Federation University among the hardest hit by the cuts.
“It will simply make it much harder for FedUni to enrol more students,” she said.
“This Government encourages regional universities to enrol more students but then denies them the ability to do just that.”
Commonwealth grant scheme funding for universities will be frozen at 2017 levels as part of the cuts.
It will then be linked to growth to performance and national population from 2020.
Higher completion rates, student satisfaction ratings and job outcomes will be the key criteria. Ms King said this would hit regional universities harder than those in cities.
However Education Minister Simon Birmingham said universities should trim their advertising budgets, instead of cutting regional programs.
“It would be a disgrace if universities sought to target students of disadvantage for any consequences from these decisions,” he said.
“They ought to be able to find the savings within their own administrative budget.”
Mr Birmingham also said universities would keep discretion about who they enrol, with every dollar of equity and disadvantage funding retained.
FedUni vice-chancellor Helen Bartlett said the cuts would disadvantage regional universities who have limited ability to boost enrollments and said the government’s formula must be altered to acknowledge institutions outside the big cities.
“Many regional universities, including FedUni, have invested with good faith and the government’s blessing in new campuses and facilities to grow and attract more students,” Ms Bartlett said. “The introduction of these budgetary measures will place serious impediments on our potential to do this.”
An Australian Catholic University spokesperson said the university will take responsible steps to manage the impacts of cuts