Go8 disheartened and dismayed by Government’s treatment of Australia’s young people

18 Dec 2017

The Group of Eight (Go8) comprising Australia’s leading research-intensive universities – with seven of its eight members ranked in the world’s top 100 universities – says it makes no sense for the Turnbull Government to have so comprehensively abandoned the nation’s young people at a time when more than ever our economy needs a highly educated workforce and a strong research base.
 “Today’s MYEFO announcement with its comprehensive cuts to the higher education sector will affect the aspirations and future career opportunities of Australia’s school leavers and graduates,” says Group of Eight Chair, Professor Peter Høj. 
“What has occurred with this Government makes a mockery of the Education Minister’s proud boast of securing the future of Australia’s young people and our economy by pursuing a policy of, to quote, ‘high chair to higher ed’. 
“Today is the benchmark of diminished education policy, from a Government determined to bypass the legislative process that so rightly indicated majority opposition to the ill-considered cuts to education funding; savings presented as reform rather than the blatant cuts they are, and which today they are so clearly exposed to be.” 
Professor Høj said the Government was clearly intent on reviving key aspects of its failed Higher Education package through whatever means necessary. 
“Obviously we would have preferred higher education was not repeatedly treated by Government as a cash cow to be milked for budget cuts rather than as positive policy construct that would benefit the career opportunities of our nation’s young people. That we are a cash cow is obvious by the slashing of funds by $2.1billion. 
 “The smarter thing to do would have been to not undermine a sector which has created Australia’s third largest export industry at $29B pa. Indeed, these cuts will indirectly hurt many Australians who benefit from this large injection of funding into our society as our university sector’s reputation gets weakened and with that our national exports. And whilst the Government has announced a $0.07billion cash injection to crucial research infrastructure which we applaud, this fades into insignificance when compared with the $2.1billion in cuts.”  
Professor Høj said that the Government had also made some serious errors today. “It well knows it cannot cut repayment thresholds without legislation, and we will weigh into that debate on behalf of our students in the New Year. There is also little visibility in the announcements,” he said. 
“It is all very well to go on about performance measures and visibility of our decisions and successes but it is our universities who can get no sense re what the Government plans in these areas. It is the Government that remains opaque - not us. 
 “The cuts will be extremely damaging in the Minister’s home state of South Australia. The universities in SA, including the Go8’s University of Adelaide are the state’s largest employer after the public service,” said Professor Høj, “and the Turnbull Government has made much of universities and their graduates being essential to assisting a difficult State economy recover through defence industries. It is hard to see how the cuts announced today integrate with the promises of fellow South Australian Minister, Defence Minister Christopher Pyne.”  
Contact:  Vicki Thomson Go8 Chief Executive (+61) 407 808 472