Federal Budget draws mixed reviews from academic sector
The education sector is one of the key areas that attract great interest when the budget is handed down – and this year was no exception. In the schools’ sector, education experts have praised the government’s allocation to students with disabilities and the increase to overall funding for schools but have questioned Budget plans on lack of detail for how schools' ‘needs’ will be assessed for funding, among other concerns.
In the higher education sector, media articles are suggesting the segment is in a ‘policy paralysis’ with a consultation paper released on a number of the higher education sector’s unresolved issues in place of decisions being made. More positive commentary followed news the government had increased funding for co-operative research centres by $46 million, or 32%, by 2020.
Below is a brief summary of the main outcomes.
- $1.2 billion allocated for public and private school funding over the three years to 2020, on a needs basis.
- This increase takes recurrent school funding from $16 billion in 2016, to just over $20 billion in 2020.
- Additional $118 million in funds allocated for students with disabilities over 2016 and 2017.
A ‘higher education options paper’ released alongside the budget reflected the Government’s decision to delay introducing any major changes to its higher education policy.
- Full university fee deregulation has been taken off the table. However the Government may still give universities the flexibility to set fees for select, ‘flagship’ degrees.
- Also up for discussion is lowering the income threshold for student HECS/HELP repayments.
- A previously announced a $1.5 billion cut from higher education funding in 2017 remains in place.
- University funding will also be cut by $601 million in 2018-2019 and $868 million in 2019-2020.
All in all, higher education remains in limbo for another six months as the Government prepares a new package of reforms due for release at the end of 2016 – for implementation in the 2018 academic year.