University environmental studies courses will have almost $10,000 less funding per student under the federal government's higher education reforms, a move that educators say is another blow to the environment.
President of the Australian Council of Environmental Deans and Directors Professor Dianne Gleeson said the drastic reduction in funding would threaten the viability of the courses that were a key supplier of graduates to many Australian industries.
"We were already struggling," she said.
"I can't see how we can continue at all providing the level and the breadth that we currently do with this reduction.
"It's just another final hit to the environment."
The government's Job-ready Graduates Package will reduce the student contribution for environmental studies from $9698 to $7700 per year.
It will also cut the the Commonwealth contribution from $24,446 per year to $16,500 per year. This leaves the universities worse off by $9944 per student per year, the largest drop in funding for any university course under the reforms.
Education Minister Dan Tehan said the government wanted to provide an incentive for students to take up courses in areas of expected job demand.
Mr Tehan said the new funding model would be better aligned with the costs associated with delivering each course.
Professor Gleeson said it was difficult to determine out how these figures were derived and was unaware of any consultation with the sector before the reforms were announced.
"How are we supposed to be able to provide that experience, that hands-on ability for students to be able to engage with those cutting-edge technologies utilising the latest in advancements with different types of equipment? That all costs money."
Students in environmental science and environmental studies courses gain a broad range of skills and knowledge in areas such as climate change mitigation, land management, conservation of threatened species, geology and hydrology.
Courses typically involve working with scientific equipment in laboratories as well as field trips and internships in industry to apply students' learning.
Jack Livingstone is enrolled in an honours degree in applied science at University of Canberra after completing the bachelor of environmental science.
Mr Livingstone said he was drawn to the practical nature of the degree, something he was concerned that future students might miss out on as budget cuts loom.
"We went on long field trips out into parts of the Murray-Darling Basin catchment and old mining towns and seeing where we could apply those skills that we learned at university to what we were looking at beneath our feet rather than from a classroom," he said.
"You get to learn all those really important skills to make you job-ready in the industry."