15 April 2013

The University of Queensland Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Høj said he applauded the ambition to have a top school system in Australia, but proposed cuts to university funding as part of the Gonski education reform were extremely disappointing.

He said the proposed cuts followed the substantial blow that the sector sustained as part of the Mid-Year Economic and Financial Outlook decisions in October 2012.

Professor Høj said these actions were hard to reconcile with the ambition to have 10 Australian universities in the world’s top 100, as expressed in the recently released Australia in the Asian Century White Paper.

“Taking $2.3 billion from the university system over the next four years would have a severe impact on students and on the place Australian universities hold in the global education sphere,” he said.

“While $1 billion of this money would come from university revenue, the remaining $1.3 billion would be a direct burden on students.”

Professor Høj said Australian universities had performed well in attracting international students, despite the high Australian dollar, and in many respects served as a strong model of performance for other sectors.

“It now seems counterproductive to save money in this way, as it will affect our place in global rankings and make it much harder to retain export earnings via our international students. This will in turn hurt all students in our marginally funded system.”

Professor Høj said he understood the government was in a difficult position as a result of financial constraints, but major cuts to the university system would have long-term detrimental consequences for universities, students and society in general.

The many students that would benefit from better schooling could be disappointed when they hit a university system challenged by these funding cuts.

“Increasing the financial burden on students while also decreasing funding to universities will not help nurture the type of society I am sure most Australians aspire to live in,” he said.

Media: Carolyn Varley, UQ Corporate Relations Manager, 0413 601 248 or 3365 1120, c.varley@uq.edu.au