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Universities eye budget dollars

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As the dust settles on the release of the 2018 Federal Budget, the overall impact on higher education, universities, students and research is being analysed. While a number of the budget measures were announced in the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook at the end of last year, there was some pleasing news.

Universities with a strong focus on research will benefit from a $1.9 billion investment over 12 years for research infrastructure, which will help to translate research into tangible outcomes. The government has committed an additional $393 million to essential research infrastructure over five years, however, only around $5.5 million has been slated for distribution in 2018 -2019.

Much of this funding will deliver world-class infrastructure as part of the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS), with the network’s facilities being used by over 40,000 researchers. As universities and academics drive a large proportion of the nation’s scientific research programs, this is positive news for the higher education sector.

However, at the same time, funding for research through university block grants has only increased very slightly, essentially remaining at the $1.9 billion mark as it was in 2017.

Regional and remote students will welcome the announcement that $96 million will be spent over four years to fund some 700 higher education places, enabling courses and also youth training. This funding will improve opportunities for students attending universities which operate in regional areas.

While most universities have had funding freezes (as previously announced in 2017), the Government has remained true to its promise to provide $124 million over five years for additional student places at the University of Tasmania, the University of the Sunshine Coast and Southern Cross University

For all students, reforms to the Higher Education Loans Program (HELP) are still on the table and as a HELP provider, universities will be charged a new annual levy. In addition, universities will now need to bear the full cost of TEQSA reaccreditation.

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