Release type: Media Release


Higher Education Revolution

The 2008-09 Budget will deliver on the Rudd Government’s election commitments and invest around $1.8 billion in the higher education sector over five years. The Government will also allocate funds from the 2007-08 and 2008-09 surpluses, along with money from the Higher Education Endowment Fund, to create a new $11 billion Education Innovation Fund to support higher education and vocational education and training.

As part of the Education Revolution, the Rudd Labor Government will implement a range of initiatives to strengthen Australia’s universities and other higher education institutions by undertaking a process of reform, improving equity, and by supporting students to study in areas of national priority, including nursing, early childhood education, maths and science.

These initiatives acknowledge and strengthen the pivotal role of Australia’s higher education sector in underpinning a productive and prosperous nation.

We want to get the higher education system right for the long term. To do this we have commissioned a major Review of Australian Higher Education aimed at making systemic improvement in the higher education sector for the benefit of students and the nation more broadly.

The review will provide a road map to guide further development of higher education to ensure it has the capacity to meet the needs of the Australian community and economy, and will deliver the options available for ongoing reform.

As well as setting the framework for future reform, this Budget also delivers on our pledge to improve equity in our universities. As promised, from 2009, full fee paying undergraduate places will be phased out in public universities for domestic students.

  • Funding of $249 million will be provided for up to 11 000 new Commonwealth supported places by 2011 to replace full fee paying places. This will ensure students gain access to higher education on merit and not on their ability to pay.
  • The Budget provides $238.5 million over four years to double the number of undergraduate scholarships from 44 000 to 88 000 by 2012.
  • The Budget provides $209.0 million over 4 years to increase the number of postgraduate scholarships from 4 800 to around 10 000 by 2012.

This Budget will deliver on the Rudd Government’s commitment to encourage students to study the critical disciplines of maths and science as well as in areas such as early childhood education and nursing. It will provide support totalling $779.2 million over four years, including:

  • From 1 January 2009, student contributions for new students in maths and science will be reduced. For a new full-time student, this could mean a reduction from $7412 to $4162 in 2009. Funding of around $562.2 million over four years has been allocated to this initiative.
  • The Government is providing around $63.6 million over four years to refund compulsory HELP repayments for eligible maths and science graduates who work in related occupations, including teaching these subjects in secondary schools. The Government will refund 50 per cent of an eligible graduate’s compulsory HECS-HELP repayments for five years.
  • Commencing in 2009, the Government will fund an additional 500 new Commonwealth supported early childhood higher education places in each of the next three years, at a cost of $53.9 million over four years. Funding for the places is ongoing.
  • As part of its plan to provide 9250 extra nurses in the workforce, the Government will also fund new Commonwealth supported higher education nursing places. The Government is committing $99.5 million over four years to the initiative. Funding for the places is ongoing. Funding will initially be provided for 90 places in the second semester of 2008 with a further 1170 places in 2009.

The Government will establish an Education Investment Fund (absorbing the Higher Education Endowment Fund). Subject to final budget outcomes in 2007-08 and 2008-09, this fund will receive an initial allocation of around $11 billion to be spent on higher education and vocational education and training facilities. In addition, to help universities upgrade and maintain teaching, research and other student facilities, the Government will provide $500 million by 30 June 2008.