CAPA stands against cuts to the higher education sector

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations joins with representatives from across the Higher Education sector in expressing disappointment at the Labor Government’s decision to slash $2.3bn from Higher Education.

“The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations was hopeful that an election year would lead to announcements of more funding for our already starved higher education sector, not less,” said CAPA National President, Meghan Hopper.

“Robbing the Higher Education sector of badly-needed funding in order to pay for school initiatives really is a case of robbing Peter to feed Paul,” Ms Hopper said.

The announcement by the Labor Government features a 2 per cent “efficiency dividend” which will result in a cut of $900 million to the sector. Students will also be required to repay start-up scholarships, while tax concessions on work-related education expenses will be capped at $2,000 and a 10 per cent discount on upfront payment of HECS will be scrapped, resulting in a total $2.3bn saving.

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has already indicated at the Universities Australia conference earlier this year that a Coalition Government would not improve funding to Higher Education, saying that “to avoid further cuts rather than to win higher funding is often the best outcome that particular sectors can hope for”.

The Coalition has also pledged to abolish the Student Services and Amenities Fee (SSAF), the preservation of which is an election year priority for CAPA.

“We are genuinely concerned that neither of the major parties seems to view Higher Education as an election year priority,” Ms Hopper said.

“Australia already ranks 25th out of 29 advanced economies for public investment in higher education as a percentage of GDP. When are we going to learn that an internationally competitive higher education and research sector requires support to thrive?” said Ms Hopper.

“We join Universities Australia, the National Tertiary Education Union, and the National Union of Students in expressing our grave concern that these cuts will have an impact on the quality of services and teaching,” said Ms Hopper.

In announcing the cuts, Minister for Tertiary Education, Craig Emerson noted that an estimated 146,000 extra Commonwealth-supported university student places have been made available in 2013 compared with 2007, a 34 per cent increase.

“With uncapping of student places resulting in more students in our tertiary system than ever before, it is truly a case of quantity over quality when the Government cuts funding,” said Ms Hopper.

“The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations simply doesn’t see how with more students and less funding, the Higher Education sector can be expected to provide a quality education experience.”

“With many postgraduate students also serving as casual academic staff, we know better than most how underfunded quality learning and teaching is in Australian institutions,” Ms Hopper said.