The University of Sydney has criticised the Federal budget for its failure to “address the serious challenges facing the [university] sector.” The news comes as the Liberal government announced a $53 million boost to for-profit private tertiary education providers. By contrast, universities will experience a 9.3% decrease in funding over the next four years.
A University spokesperson told Honi that they were “concerned the extremely welcome Research Support Program emergency funding has not been renewed, particularly given the extension of border closures well into 2022, limiting the ability of our international students to enter the country.”
The spokesperson continued, “the longer this situation goes on, the riskier it becomes — for Australia’s sovereign research capacity, the next generation of researchers, our students and the economy.”
The University did not adopt the more forthright language of Australian National University Vice-Chancellor Brian Schmidt, who said the university sector had been “left to bleed” by the budget, instead choosing to praise the “funding for soil sciences…Digital Economy Strategy…and investment in women in STEM scholarships.”
Meanwhile, for-profit tertiary education providers will receive a $53 million funding package to help them survive after the pandemic saw a drastic drop in international student enrolments. Such providers will be eligible for grants to help develop online short courses targeted at the international student market. Private tertiary colleges received JobKeeper, while universities were deemed ineligible.
National Union of Students President Zoe Ranganathan described the scheme as a “quick cash grab from a Government that has no plan to give international students the quality of education that they deserve.”
“These changes are targeted at raking in money from international students…using students as cash cows and poor quality online learning won’t save Higher Education.”
NUS Education Officer Chris Hall said that “the idea of online short courses is for the benefit of saving money and has never been to develop students and their skills. It is disappointing to see the government trivialise the benefits that education can provide.”
Universities will not be eligible for funding under the scheme.