Universities demand funding boost
Universities are demanding a $310 million boost to funding, a week after the retiring tertiary education minister Chris Evans rejected long-running calls for extra support.
In a budget submission to the federal government, Universities Australia will call for an annual 2.5 per cent top-up to the funding of commonwealth-supported university places over five years.
The submission, to be released on Wednesday, says this will cause ''minimal short term costs to the budget'' of about $310 million in the first year.
But it argues the reform will pay for itself over time ''because of the higher taxes paid by more and better quality university graduates''.
The fresh call comes a week after Senator Evans side-stepped key recommendations of a government-commissioned review of university funding.
The review found the average level of base funding per place should rise ‘‘to improve the quality of higher education teaching and contribute to national productivity and economic growth’’.
In a formal response to the review last week, Senator Evans said the government had already boosted funding and ''there will be no additional generalised funding increase''.
Senator Evans announced his ministerial resignation the following Saturday, with Chris Bowen moving into the higher education portfolio.
The latest funding push appears unlikely to succeed, with Mr Bowen’s spokesman saying the government’s position had not changed.
Universities Australia argues previous funding reforms ‘‘do not go far enough in allowing Australia to catch up to ... world’s best practice’’. The organisations is also demanding better support for research.
Debate over university quality comes as the Gillard government seeks to cement school funding reform at the centre of its re-election pitch.
The Coalition held a joint party room meeting on Tuesday and confirmed it would move amendments to the Australian Education Bill - the legislation that paves the way for an overhaul of the way schools are funded from next year.
Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne said the Coalition had already flagged an extension of the current system for two years so ''schools have funding certainty in the short term as federal funding expires at the end of this year''.
Mr Pyne said a committee review may recommend further amendments, which the Coalition would consider.
The school funding reforms will require about $6.5 billion a year in extra funding, but it is still unclear where the money will come from.
The federal government needs to strike a deal with the increasingly impatient states and territories and the independent and Catholic school sectors. The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, wants to settle the details at the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April.