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Gonski cuts to hit ACT-based universities

Australian Universities

Universities in Canberra say they will suffer after the Federal Government announced it would take money from the tertiary sector to help pay for the Gonski school reforms. The Federal Government plans to cut $2.8 billion from universities to help pay for school education changes.

The Australian National University (ANU) says the budget cuts will hit frontline support services for students and staff. ANU’s acting vice-chancellor Margaret Harding says it puts at risk long-term plans to improve quality education.

“This comes on top of very severe and unplanned cuts we experienced just last November, just less than six months ago through the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook process,” Professor Harding said.

“We’re still responding and have had to make significant changes as a result of those cuts so the timing is quite poor for us.”

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker is worried by plans to convert scholarships into student loans.

“The conversion of grants into loans I think is a trend, Professor Parker said.

“And I’m beginning to wonder whether the commonwealth is actually retreating from higher education and just becoming a banker, just becoming a kind of loans scheme orchestrator.”

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher supports the goal of better funding for early education, but is worried about a reduction in local university funding.

“The universities are a really important part of Canberra’s future,” Ms Gallagher said.

“So my concern around that is we want to grow and build our tertiary sector in Canberra’s second century.

“And we’ve made some commitments around that as a local government and I wouldn’t want to see this efficiency dividend reduce that focus.” 

Funding support

The ACT Branch of the Australian Education Union (AEU) is urging politicians on all sides of politics to get behind the Federal Government’s plan. If it goes ahead $100 million will be invested in both public and private schools in Canberra with money targeted at disadvantaged students. The AEU’s Glenn Fowler says it would be hypocritical not to support the package.

“Any state premiers that seek to block this will need to explain to the families of children across the nation, that they don’t think the kids in schools are worth that sort of of investment,” Mr Fowler said.

“This would be a pretty difficult road for any state premier to look at this and think that there’s not going to be a great benefit for children in their state.”

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