SCU slam Gillard Govt. over university funding cutbacks
'SHORT sighted' and 'contrary to government goals' is how Southern Cross University Professor Peter Lee has described the Federal Government's cuts to higher education funding.
SCU and the Regional Universities Network have jointly condemned the changes to university student support, announced at the weekend by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research Craig Emerson.
"Taking away $900 million in university funding over 2014 and 2015 will impact universities everywhere," Prof. Lee said.
"Changes such as the conversion of student start-up scholarships into a loan will hit the very students the government professes it wants to encourage to go to university.
He said the government had set targets to increase the numbers of students studying in regional Australia, because the country trailed other comparable countries in people with university qualifications.
"Now it is cutting funding to the sector that is expected to deliver this increase in participation, with savings to go to secondary schools," Prof. Lee said.
Regional Universities Network chair Professor David Battersby said the cuts were a significant setback for regional universities and their students.
"The cuts will significantly erode the ability of regional universities to take full advantage of the student demand-driven system, grow our student numbers, and contribute to lifting higher education participation and attainment in regional Australia," Prof. Battersby said.
Already Regional Australia lags behind capital cities in educational attainment - 12% of adults in regional communities have a degree compared with 27% of adults in capital cities and 32% of regional Australians aspire to higher education compared to 62% in capital cities.