2012 Budget snapshot

Ahead of the 2012 budget, the theme in  the higher education sector was that no one expected good news . The question was just how bad the news will be?

The short answer is, in terms of higher education: not bad at all.

There’s nothing in the way of additional base funding – but then nobody expected that would occur in the circumstances of this particular budget.  The demand driven system remains intact, improved indexation survives.

There’s a little bit extra ($41.6 million over four years) to support the learning needs of low SES background students now flowing into higher education and for the teaching of sciences and maths ($30 million over four years in higher education) at both secondary and tertiary levels ($54 million overall).  There’s also to be a new $29.8 million Manufacturing Technology Innovation Centre which  “will bring our brightest researchers and manufacturers together to drive innovation through new and improved industrial products and processes.”

University sector media releases were peppered with references to “warm welcome” which should be read as “surprised relief”: for the second year running higher education and research expenditure has escaped the expected razor.

The TAFE sector wasn’t quite so warmed by it all.  TAFE Directors Australia commented:

The 2012-13 Federal Budget has squeezed funding for national skills.  The Budget measures will increase pressure on states and territories battling tighter revenues.

It noted, in particular that Commonwealth indexed agreement under VET reforms in States and Territories will be 1.89 per cent in 2012-13 while higher education enjoys near to full indexation.

Opposition spokesperson Brett Mason said the Budget fails to address the emerging threats to the quality and standards at Australian universities, with the government actually contributing less money per student, as infrastructure funding is not keeping up with the increase in student numbers:

 …..while the government’s 40 per cent tertiary participation goal is admirable, quality and standards must not be sacrificed in order to achieve it. The Coalition considers quality and standards to be non-negotiable.

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