One of the nation’s premier experts on higher education policy has warned that the federal government’s proposed changes to the sector could have a far more negative funding impact on the University of Tasmania than on other institutions.
Giving evidence on Thursday to a Senate inquiry into a bill to change the university funding model, Mark Warburton, a director at education and training consultancy group PhillipsKPA, said that despite peak body Universities Australia’s assertion that the package would create “funding certainty”, it would actually do the opposite – particularly for regional universities.
“Student load at [UTAS] means it is likely to be more adversely affected by reduced student place funding than the national picture – potentially losing nearly 8 per cent compared to the national average of 6 per cent,” Mr Warburton said. “This change will be permanent.”
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Mr Warburton worked in the Australian Public Service for more than 30 years and has assisted in implementing national education reforms.
The government’s proposed funding overhaul would see the federal funding contribution to universities fall from 58 per cent to 52 per cent, the cost of courses including humanities and law rise by up to 113 per cent, and costs to courses like science, nursing and engineering drop. An additional 39,000 places would be created.
UTAS vice-chancellor Rufus Black said the package would help more Tasmanians access higher education.
“While there are aspects we disagree with such as the approach to pricing degrees, our view is the … package overall will benefit the Tasmanian community,” Professor Black said.
“We’ve noted commentary by people who aren’t familiar with the detail of Tasmanian circumstances.
“While on the face of it, the funding we receive per student will decline if the legislation is passed, this is because funding will be more closely aligned with the actual cost of delivery.”
Federal Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek said it was “stunning” that UTAS was willing to support a package that “so clearly disadvantages Tasmanian students”.
“The funding cuts will be about a third bigger for UTAS or Tasmanian students than they will be for students on the mainland … because of the subject selections that they have generally been studying,” she said.
But Education Minister Dan Tehan said UTAS would be among the chief beneficiaries of the government’s package.
“[UTAS] is one of the biggest winners out of the Job-ready Graduates Package because its funding will increase and it will receive more places for domestic students,” he said.
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