The Gillard Government is investing a further $1.2 billion over the next four years to fund growth in university enrolments following a move to uncap university places and make higher education available to all Australians.
Minister for Tertiary Education, Senator Chris Evans, said this landmark investment will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians, funding more than 480,000 undergraduate places at public universities this year.
This investment is on top of $2.77 billion in funding already committed by the Gillard Government to support the move to a higher education system that responds to student demand.
“We are determined that all Australians – regardless of their background or where they live – should have the opportunity to gain a university education,” Senator Evans said.
“A university education is a ticket to greater career choice and to high skilled and high paid jobs. These are aspirations that thousands more Australians are now able to realise.”
“That’s why Labor is making an historic investment of $35.7 billion over the next four years in teaching and learning in our universities to ensure more Australians enjoy the opportunities available to those who hold university qualifications.”
In this Budget, the Government has also reviewed student subsidies in the higher education sector to ensure funding is both fair and sustainable.
The Government will be reducing the 20 per cent discount given to eligible students who choose to pay their student contribution amount upfront.
From 1 January 2012, the HECS-HELP upfront payment discount will be 10 per cent.
The Government is also reducing the 10 per cent voluntary repayment bonus to five per cent from 1 January 2012. This change to student subsidies is expected to save $479 million over four years. These discounts advantage those with the capacity to pay their fees upfront. Analysis of the upfront discounts provided in 2009 showed that only around 12 per cent of these students came from low-SES postcodes.
These savings measures will assist the Government to strengthen its investment in higher education to ensure that more students will have the opportunity to attend university. They do not, however, affect the flow of revenue to universities.
Senator Evans said further new spending in this Budget for higher education included:
- An extra $550 million flowing through new indexation arrangements, increasing the total additional funding from new indexation from $2.6 billion to $3.15 billion over five years (2011-2015), putting universities on a more sustainable funding base, with resources to provide high quality higher education;
- $500 million over five years to meet infrastructure needs with a Regional Priorities Round of the Education Investment Fund; and
- A doubling of funding for regional loading, delivering an additional $109.9 million over four years, to strengthen regional higher education by helping to overcome the higher costs of regional campuses, compared to campuses in major cities.
The Government has steadily increased ongoing funding to support the participation of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Next year, the Government will provide $177.6 million through the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) to assist universities to attract, support and retain students from a low SES background through a range of school and university based initiatives.
“This investment continues the Gillard Government’s commitment to improve the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds attending university,’’ Senator Evans said.
“In this next generation of students, there will be many people who will be the first in their family to go to university because of this Government’s reforms.
The Budget also provides for a record investment in regional universities. There is increased funding of $109.9 million over four years to support the higher cost of provision by regional universities and $500 million for the Regional Priorities Round of the EIF.
“More students in regional areas will have the chance to gain the qualifications they need to access the high skilled jobs of the future,” Senator Evans said.
The Government has already committed $4.15 billion from the Education Investment Fund for infrastructure in higher education, research and other education institutions.
The Gillard Government is strongly committed to ensuring growth in university enrolments is underpinned by a focus on quality, and we will continue to work with universities on initiatives that improve the quality of teaching and learning in higher education.
Performance Funding starts in 2011 with $400.4 million in Facilitation Funding and $335.1 million in Reward Funding available over four years.
“I have accepted universities’ advice that additional time is necessary to develop some of the Performance Funding measurement instruments. Accordingly, universities will not be required to meet some performance targets in the first Compact period,” Senator Evans said.
The Government has therefore reduced the total amount of Reward Funding by $95 million in 2012.
A total of $30.8 million in Reward Funding has also been set aside in 2012 and 2013 for a package of initiatives to support quality in teaching and learning during this period of strong growth in university enrolments.
“This major investment in our universities will ensure we build a smarter, more productive, and more equitable Australia,” Senator Evans said.
“All Australians will benefit from this Government’s broad range of initiatives to produce a more highly educated and highly skilled workforce.”