The ANU's Stephen Parker agrees with the move to promote the tertiary education sector.

The UC's Stephen Parker agrees with the move to promote the tertiary education sector. Photo: Rohan Thomson

The ACT government says Canberra's universities will benefit from a new program to promote the city's tertiary sector.

The territory budget next month will contain spending of $2 million over four years to establish "StudyCanberra", aimed at making the capital a "city of first choice" for interstate and international students.

The news will be welcomed by the city's two universities, reeling from federal government funding cuts, with the University of Canberra set to lose $8.3 million in the next three years and the ANU looking at $51 million in cuts in two years.

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher said StudyCanberra was the government's plan to boost the territory's tertiary education sector, increase student numbers, research capacity and boost contribution of education to the ACT economy.

"We want to make Canberra the destination of choice for national and international students by promoting the ACT's thriving higher education sector,'' she said.

"We will use the funding allocated to StudyCanberra to work closely with the local universities and education and industry providers, for example CIT, to grow and develop Canberra's education economy."

The Chief Minister, who brought the StudyCanberra policy to October's territory election, said the program would bring business, universities and government together.

''StudyCanberra will see greater collaboration between government, business and the education sector to further capitalise on the significant economic and social benefits that education and training provide to the ACT," she said.

University of Canberra Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker, whose institution will cut courses, charge for campus car parking and cull senior management as it grapples with the cuts, said on Sunday that StudyCanberra could be the boost the sector needed.

''The importance of Canberra's universities to the city's economy cannot be underestimated,'' he said. ''Education is the capital's largest non-government export. Universities are major employers, while the students we bring to town earn and spend in Canberra's economy.

''They play a vital part in meeting the capital's skills needs and also enliven the place.

''Universities make Canberra more fun.''

Professor Parker said the importance of the tertiary sector to the local economy grew in periods when the Commonwealth was paring down its spending in Canberra.

"I've argued for some time that the Commonwealth's commitment to Canberra is by no means guaranteed," he said.

"We can't rely on it for jobs or other economic activity, particularly when there is an appetite to cut public service jobs or relocate agencies to marginal seats.

"I've said before that Canberra has an opportunity to diversify and strengthen its economy by cementing its position as an education city.

"Universities should not be expected to do this alone, so StudyCanberra is an example of the kind of strategic, 'whole-of-city' approach we need. It's exactly what the government should be doing and I applaud them for it."