Summary of actions required in 2020 Budget
Through the Higher Education Relief package of 12 April 2020, the Government ensured that its funding to universities for 2020 would remain at the level expected. However, the significant mid-term impact of COVID-19 on the capacity of universities to provide the education and research Australia requires has yet to be addressed.
Universities are reshaping the approach to delivering education following the rapid move to fully digital-based delivery in response to Covid-19.
University research capability faces a major reduction through loss of revenue streams from international student fees and reductions in domestic and international end-user investment.
International student numbers will be down for several years, affecting the breadth of courses available to Australian students and with large spillover impacts on demand for accommodation and services from students unable to come to Australia.
The Job-Ready Graduates (JRG) package, announced on 19 June 2020, is a domestic funding reform package that seeks to reverse the steady decline in the value of university funding and provide a mechanism for growth in the future that will meet likely demand. The IRU recognises the intent of the package but argues it has significant weaknesses that need to be addressed within its overall structure.
In summary the IRU recommends that the 2020 budget:
- provide a substantial two-year Research Sustainability Program to bridge the looming gap in research investment;
- support three sensible improvements to the Government’s Job-Ready Graduates (JRG) package;
- strip back unnecessary micro controls of higher education providers proposed for the Higher Education Support Act 2003.