We welcome this opportunity to contribute our perspective on the performance-based allocation of Commonwealth funding. The provided consultation paper lists a total of seven major consultation questions. The following submission does not seek to answer all of these questions, but will provide CAPA’s perspective on those that would most directly affect the students of Australian universities. We discuss several of the proposed performance measures, drawing attention to pitfalls which must be considered and mitigated prior to implementation. We believe that, for the funding scheme to achieve its objective of promoting quality education, universities should be assessed against benchmarks or targets rather than in a competitive fashion.
We agree with the mission of Performance-Based Funding (PBF) to promote quality in universities, as set out in the Department of Education and Training’s Discussion Paper. This scheme has the potential to be an incentive for improving student outcomes, used in conjunction with legislative instruments which enforce minimum standards. However, such a large change to how funding is distributed must be carefully considered to ensure the outcome matches the intention, and particularly to ensure that disadvantaged groups of students are not further marginalised.
We preface our feedback on the Discussion Paper by noting that universities have increasingly been asked to do more with less. Universities have been subjected to successive funding cuts, particularly the $2.1 billion cut to the Commonwealth Grants Scheme and the Higher Education Loan Programme in December 2017, followed by the the $328.5 million cut to research funding announced in December 2018. These cuts were motivated by the Government’s desire to deliver short-term budget savings, with disastrous long-term consequences for the education attainment of Australians, as well as for national research output (CAPA, 2018). We also note that current funding levels are insufficient to support the number of students in postgraduate study. This is discussed in our response to the Consultation Paper on the reallocation of Commonwealth supported places for enabling, sub-bachelor and postgraduate courses. There is an urgent need to fund universities at an appropriate level, in addition to examining how that funding should be distributed.