The Australian Government has taken another step towards ensuring a stronger and more sustainable higher education funding system with today’s release of the final report of the Base Funding Review.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, said the report offers principles and recommendations for public investment in higher education and proposals to ensure the sector remains internationally competitive.
“The report was led by an expert panel chaired by Dr Jane Lomax-Smith, who consulted widely and considered in-depth information and analysis from experts in the field,” Senator Evans said.
The report has recommended that the Government endorse a number of principles which should underpin the Australian Government’s funding of higher education into the future.
These include that the base funding model should be simple and transparent, that it should reflect the relative costs for different disciplines or modes of teaching and that base funding should enable institutions to pursue innovative methods of teaching and learning.
“I particularly welcome the report’s recommendations with respect to ensuring that more students who commence university study are better supported to complete their studies,” Senator Evans said.
“A focus on retention and completion will be key to ensuring both that the Government gets better value for its investment in higher education, but also that students are not leaving their studies early having incurred HECS debts which may take some time to pay back.”
The next step will involve a targeted consultation with stakeholders who will have an opportunity to provide their feedback on the report and express their priorities for the future at roundtable discussions to be held in February and March 2012.
“It is important, given the scope and complexity of the issues involved, that students, universities and other stakeholders are given a chance to have their say,” Senator Evans said.
The Government intends to consider its response to the Review following the consultations and expects to commence its response in the course of 2012.
Senator Evans said the Government has made an unprecedented commitment to higher education reform and funding through major infrastructure investment, improved indexation arrangements and the creation of a demand driven funding system.
Government investment in higher education has increased from $8 billion in 2007 to more than $12 billion this year.
Students have responded strongly to the new opportunities that higher education reforms have offered, with 20 per cent growth in student places in the four years to 2012, and the Government is well on track to reach the Bradley Review target of 40 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds attaining a bachelor degree or higher by 2025.
Senator Evans said that the Government’s response would necessarily take account of the current fiscal environment and budget constraints.
“As I have previously made clear, expectations of new funding must be tempered, given the significant additional revenue streams that are now flowing to universities following the Government’s response to the Bradley Review,” he said.
“I expect that 2012 will be an even stronger year for universities as it is the first year that the Government’s improved indexation arrangements take full effect.
“Next year will also see the restoration of funding for student amenities and services, delivering substantial additional revenue to universities in 2012.
“Universities also stand to gain considerably from new streamlined visa arrangements which will underpin sustainable growth in their international operations next year, following the Government’s positive response to the Knight Review earlier this year.
“Next year, there is also still work to be done to ensure that there are better connections between the higher education and vocational education and training sectors and to put in place longer term arrangements for funding of postgraduate coursework places.”
The demand driven funding system is part of the Government’s push to increase the number of Australians with bachelor qualifications, improve student participation from low socioeconomic backgrounds and meet skills demands.
The final report is available at www.deewr.gov.au/basefundingreview
A transcript of Senator Evans speech and photos are available at http://ministers.deewr.gov.au/evans/release-base-funding-review-parliament-house-canberra