COVID-19 to cost universities $16 billion by 2023

Australia’s universities could lose $16 billion in revenue between now and 2023 according to new modelling by Universities Australia.

Revenue losses for the remainder of 2020 are also likely to increase, now estimated at between $3.1 billion and $4.8 billion. Previously UA had estimated the shortfall at between $3 billion and $4.6 billion.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson said the new four-year modelling underlines the sustained effect of COVID-19 on university finances, not just in the current year but in the years to come.

“We can’t pretend that won’t have a big impact. Not only does that revenue support the staff and facilities to educate the next generation of skilled workers, it also pays for much of the research and innovation that keeps Australia internationally competitive,” Ms Jackson said.

“If there’s less research on campus we will be less equipped to deal with crises like COVID-19 and bushfires in future.”

“Great Australian researchers have been responsible for so many job-creating, life saving innovations including vaccine for cervical cancer, IVF, soft contact lenses, the bionic ear and spray on skin for burns victims. All the result of Australian university know-how.”

Universities are responsible for undertaking a growing share of the nation’s research-from 24 per cent of Australia’s R&D a decade ago, to 34 per cent in 2017-18.

However, a substantial portion of Australia’s research is in jeopardy, with independent estimates that between $3.3 billion and $3.5 billion of university R&D activity annually could be at risk.

“Until now universities have been increasing their investment in research and innovation. The danger is that if universities are unable to continue funding this activity, Australia’s ability to innovate its way out of the COVID-19 recession will be severely hampered.”

“You can’t have an economic recovery without investing in research and development.”

Ms Jackson said there was a clear link between R&D investment and the new innovations and productivity increases that will be crucial to Australia’s post-pandemic recovery.

“Universities Australia calls on the Federal Government to directly invest in research to ensure Australia emerges in a stronger position after this pandemic,” she said.

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