Pyne’s research funding fix

The Australian    |    8 May 2015

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Science research infrastructure that was threatened by the government’s controversial higher education reforms will receive a $300 million lifeline in next week’s budget – but at the expense of other research funding. Cutting the $1.8 billion a year research block grants is an easier option that doesn’t needing parliamentary approval or targets specific projects, but it will still hurt research.

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Budget cuts

The Australian reports that funding for the National Collaborative and Research Infrastructure Strategy will be given a two-year reprieve, with funding until 2017, totalling $300 million.

Education minister Christopher Pyne faced fierce lobbying from industry and academia last year when he threatened to end the program if the higher education reform package was rejected by the Senate.

In a last-ditch attempt to win over the crossbench, Pyne famously proclaimed he would “fix” the legislation and remove $150m in NCRIS cuts from the bill. The move guaranteed the scheme’s operation for another 12 months and prevented the loss of up to 1700 jobs supported by NCRIS’s 27 active projects.

Grattan Institute higher education expert Andrew Norton said the cut can be expected to reduce research. In contrast, he said a better option would be to cut the Commonwealth Grants Scheme that funds teaching and make up for it with a minor increase in student fees that won’t have any impact on participation. However such a move would need parliamentary approval.

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