You might have heard that in April the Federal Government has announced a $2.8 billion cut to the university sector to help pay for the school reforms which were recommended by the Gonski review.

So, what is the Gonski review?

It was a comprehensive investigation the school funding models in Australia. It was commissioned by the Federal Government and conducted by an expert panel headed by David Gonski.  As a result of this review, it is recommended that an additional $5 billion to be injected to both public and private schools a year. The money invested will help school students learn better in the following ways:

          Smaller class sizes

          Extra specialist teachers

          Greater support for students with higher need

          Additional training and classroom support for teachers

You can read more about the review and its reports at:

What does it mean to University students?                                

In 2011 in our blog we discussed that the discount on upfront HECS was cut from 20% to 10%. The 10% per cent discount will not exist anymore as of January next year if the proposed cuts go ahead. This translates that you will not get any discount regardless of whether you pay upfront or not.

In addition, Student Start-Up Scholarships would need to be repaid once the student begins working. Student Start-Up Scholarships is a payment that helps students undertaking a scholarship course with the upfront costs of items such as textbooks and specialised equipment. Eligible students have been receiving up to $2050/ year on these scholarships. However, from next year they have to repay the payment once they start working.

The university funding from the Government is cut too in form of efficiency dividend of 2 per cent in 2014 and 1.25 per cent in 2015. This equates to $900 million funding cuts for the Higher Education sector. With this significant funding reduction, we suspect there will be changes in the student experience across different universities. There may be bigger lectures and tutorials. The students to staff ratio may be higher.

What are the responses from the Universities?

Most universities were very disappointed about the proposal. The University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj in the UQ news said “Australian universities had performed well in attracting international students, despite the high Australian dollar, and in many respects served as a strong model of performance for other sectors.” However, it now seems counterproductive to save money by reducing funding, as it will affect Australia’s place in global rankings and make it much harder to retain export earnings via international students.

Monash University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ed Byrne, has expressed his view in a media release that the cuts have come at a tight time for the sector. “Given that we are already experiencing tightening of our financial resources, this is an additional pressure that we cannot simply absorb and we will have to consider a range of expenditure reduction options,” Professor Byrne said. Thousands of booksellers - millions of books.

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