Students and staff to bear brunt of latest Australian university funding cut
20 January 2018
Ever-larger class sizes, closures of courses and campuses, thousands more staff job cuts and accelerated pro-business restructuring. These are some of the already known impacts of the latest multi-billion funding cuts to Australia’s public universities, which the federal government announced just a week before Christmas.
The Liberal-National Coalition government was unable to get a $2.8 billion package of cost-cutting over four years through the Senate, because Labor, Greens and right-wing populist senators feared the intense hostility of students, staff and the wider population and refused to support it. So, instead, the government used the December 18 release of its mid-year budget review to impose $2.2 billion in cutbacks by decree.
The most immediately damaging measure is a two-year freeze on funding for undergraduate enrolments. Universities Australia, the peak management body, estimates this will mean nearly 10,000 student places going unfunded in 2018.
Then, from 2020, new “performance targets” will make any funding increases depend on universities “realigning” their course offerings to be more in tune with the requirements of the corporate elite. Universities must do more to meet “the expectations of employers,” Education Minister Simon Birmingham declared.
Despite the political posturing by opposition and “crossbench” politicians, this is part of a protracted bipartisan assault on students and staff, and the basic right to higher education. The latest package is on top of funding reductions exceeding $4 billion since 2011, mostly inflicted by the previous Labor government, which was kept in office by the Greens.
Over the same period,…