Federal budget support for university research critical for economic recovery – Group of Eight

The Group of Eight (Go8), which comprises Australia’s leading research-intensive universities, looks forward to hearing the details of the Federal Government’s financial commitment to research funding as part of next week’s Federal Budget.

In a wide ranging speech to the AFR Higher Education Conference today, the Federal Education Minister, Dan Tehan, was explicit in his belief that university research will help us ‘fight COVID-19 and it will power Australia’s post COVID-19 recovery.”

The Minister also outlined a funding commitment to increase university places across the sector by up to 12,000 in 2021.

“The Go8 graduates some 110,000 students every year. These are graduates in fields which will be key to our economic future including 54% of Australia’s science graduates and 42% of our engineering graduates. Today’s announcement is a step in the right direction in ensuring there are available places at our universities available to those who seek a university education. But there is more to be done to ensure that we can continue to deliver on the research needs of our nation as part of our COVID recovery and the Minister has acknowledged this,” Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said.

In its blueprint for reform the Go8 has set out three recommendations to enable the continuation of research excellence, which has never been more vital to Australia’s future.

  • Supporting excellent research at scale to maximise benefit for the nation
  • Sustainable translation and research infrastructure funding across national priority issues (funded targeted priority research at scale)
  • Transparent and full costing of research to ensure effective expenditure (ensuring transparent bang for taxpayer buck)

“As the Minister himself has noted, research is part of the reset of the economy through the generation of new industries and new technologies and the creation of new jobs.

“To fail to support Australia’s globally ranked, research industry is to fail to support Australia’s national interest. It is to fail to back the serious intellectual talent that Australia is capable of generating. It is to fail to support our innovation and discovery-based industries, the industries that could lead Australia into the future. We look forward to the details of the Governments funding commitment to support research in our universities – 70 percent of which is undertaken across the Go8,” Ms Thomson said.

Meanwhile the Go8 remains concerned about the unintended impact of the Job Ready Graduates Package. These concerns include: conflicting incentives for students and universities in cluster funding arrangements; issues around equity; an increase in unnecessary red-tape and regulation; and the difficulty universities will face in teaching more students with less per-student funding. The Go8 hopes to see these issues addressed in amendments to the Bill as well as the inclusion of transition and growth funding.

“We look forward to the measures to be announced in next week’s budget, and to evaluating how they will ensure the immediate and longer-term future of our nation.”

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