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Australia: Fee hikes in universities as govt prepares to slash funds

The Turnbull administration is planning savage cuts to university funding. Source: AAP/Wendell Teodoro via Reuters

Students in Australian universities can expect fee hikes as the Turnbull administration prepares to unveil a new budget that will slash government funding to these institutions by the hundreds of millions.

According to The Sydney Morning Herald, the move is based on a new government-commissioned report that found funds channelled to the universities through the government and student fees are more than enough to cover the cost of teaching its students. The aim of the proposed cuts is to get the best returns for every tax dollar paid.

“Funding for our universities is at record levels, but it has grown above and beyond the costs of their operations.” – Education Minister Simon Birmingham.

“Universities have a vital role to play in Australia but many mums and dads are feeling the pinch of tighter budgets at home and want to know their tax dollars are being used effectively and efficiently.”

An estimated AUD900 million (US$678 million) is estimated to be culled from universities in the span of four years.

Students will likely face hikes in course fees and graduates will be required to repay their study loans faster.

The Turnbull government’s move comes in the wake of Universities Australia’s report last week which found further cuts to university will jeopardise the quality of research and financial viability of tertiary education. It found students and universities have done their bit by contributing AUD4 billion (US$3.01 billion) to the country’s budget deficit.

However, the new report from Deloitte Access Economics shows the increase in government funds had surpassed the average cost of delivery per student. Funds grew by 15 percent while costs only went up by 9.5 percent, suggesting universities have the capacity to absorb more cuts.

Two courses, on the other hand, are found to be underfunded – dentistry and veterinary science. These courses will be given more financial support by the government.

The report titled Cost Delivery of Higher Education which looked at 17 universities also found university vice-chancellors get an average remuneration package of AUD873,571 (US$657,934) – more than what the prime minister or senior public officer make, based on publicly available annual reports.

The full education reform package will be unveiled within these few days. The education minister is slated to meet with university and business leaders on Monday evening.

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