The Federal Government has been told the funding freeze would hit regional institutions and disadvantaged people hardest, saying it was “a cap on opportunity”.
The Federal Government has been told the funding freeze would hit regional institutions and disadvantaged people hardest, saying it was “a cap on opportunity”.

$2b university cuts to hit regions

CUTTING $2.2 billion for university funding will see regional and rural Queenslanders miss out on a higher education, Universities Australia chairwoman Margaret Gardener will say in a plea to government today to reverse the cash freeze.

The number of students from rural and regional areas attending university has increased by 48 per cent since university places were uncapped in 2009.

But Ms Gardener will tell the National Press Club today the two-year funding freeze proposed by the Federal Government will undo that.

Central Queensland University, University of the Sunshine Coast and other Queensland institutions have been holding emergency meetings on whether they could continue to offer some courses or services.

In December, the Federal Government announced a suite of changes, including freezing funding at 2017 levels for two years, lowering the threshold for repayment of HECS-HELP to $45,000 and capping student loans to $150,000 for medical and dentistry degrees and $104,000 for others.

University of the Sunshine Coast is one of the institutions fighting the cuts. (Caboolture campus pictured)
University of the Sunshine Coast is one of the institutions fighting the cuts. (Caboolture campus pictured)

The measures would save $2.2 billion from the Budget, which Education Minister Simon Birmingham has said universities could find through efficiencies, accusing them of scaremongering.

Ms Gardener said the funding freeze would hit regional institutions and disadvantaged people hardest, saying it was "a cap on opportunity".

"It isn't just that this year, and in the years to come, there will be people who wished for and could benefit from a university education, who will miss out," she said.

"We should close gaps, not widen them.

"So my message today is a plea to policymakers: End this university funding freeze."

Currently, 42 per cent of people in capital cities are university educated, compared with 17-19 per cent in remote and regional areas - less than half.

Senator Birmingham has said student funding had grown by 15 per cent in recent years, reaching a per-student record level of $11,637, while university costs had only risen 9.5 per cent.

He has said the freeze did not cap on student places that universities could offer.

University of Southern Queensland vice-chancellor Geraldine Mackenzie said last year regional institutions had already made cuts and could not go further without affecting students.



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