2016 Pre-Budget Submission

Attachment: CAPA Submission

The Australian higher education sector’s contribution to the economy and the long-term sustainability of the expenditure needs of the nation are widely accepted in industry and government. The two biggest contributions made by the higher education sector are the development of human capital and the creation of new  knowledge and innovative ideas. These two contributions are the absolute fundamental drivers of economic growth in economies at the technology frontier, as Australia is, along with other high income, high Human Development Index nations.

Research students contribute to the majority of Australia’s research output in human resource terms at 57%. Expanding support for research students will benefit Australia through higher human capital formation and greater R&D capabilities within the higher education sector.

CAPA has identified three priority areas to inform the formation of the 2016-17 Federal Budget, where funding will ensure continued strong growth of the Higher Education Sector as well as Australian research.


  1. Extending income support through the Youth Allowance, Austudy and Abstudy programs to all domestic students regardless of course of study, costing 186 million dollars over 4 years.
  2. Supporting Higher Degree by Research (HDR) candidates to successful completion and transition to the labour force with the stability and security to innovate, at a cost of 100 million dollars over 4 years.
  3. Ensuring that a fair level of income derived by universities from teaching activities is spent on teaching and learning.

On the 4th February the Senate Select Committee into the Abbott Government’s Budget Cuts condemned funding cuts made in the 2014-15 federal budget in its first interim report.

Significantly the committee is recommending that the government keep its election promise ‘not to cut education funding’ and that funding be restored to many significant areas affected by the budget cuts. In making these recommendations the committee has clearly listened to and taken onboard stakeholder feedback and delivered a common sense report into the impact of funding cuts.

The Council of Australian Postgraduate Associations is concerned that the federal Minister for Education and Training continues to single mindedly pursue university fee deregulation and other disastrous education ‘reforms’ regardless of the warnings which he has received from these same stakeholders in the higher education sector.

“The minister is placing universities and the higher education sector in an impossible situation – the message continues to be either support his disastrous reforms or face crippling funding cuts with no way to cover the deficit,” said the National President Harry Rolf.

The minister has not ruled out that funding cuts including a $173.7M cut to the Research Training Scheme (RTS) will go ahead regardless of whether the amended Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment (HERRA) bill is passed by the Senate in 2015.

To compensate for the $173.7M cut in RTS funding the HERRA bill will allow Australian universities to charge a fee of up to $3900 pa to PhD and Masters Students, but there is no guarantee that money raised will be used for research training.

“The bill simply introduced a new fee, with no guarantee that the money will be spent on research training. This new fee will have devastating long-term impacts on research student enrollments and damage the research capacity of Australian universities.

“A fee will create a significant financial barrier, it will mean that Australia’s best and brightest think twice before applying for a research degree, they will look overseas where there are better opportunities and at worst the fee will exclude those from low-socioeconomic disadvantaged backgrounds.

“This is not a vision for the future of Higher Education and Research in Australia that anyone wants to see. These disastrous ‘reforms’ have clearly been rejected and their damaging consequences made clear. If the minister is serious about reform, then his first step must be to take the feedback he is receiving seriously, go back to the white board and start over”
concluded Harry Rolf.

MEDIA CONTACT: Harry Rolf, president@capa.edu.au



Based on feedback we have updated the original release, ‘confirmed’ has been updated to ‘has not ruled out’.

The release draws on comments made by the minister for Education and Training at a press conference 28 Jan (1). The 2014-15 federal budget(2) continues to list the RTS cuts and the DET website(3) explains the research student fee. Cuts to Research Block Grants and the HERRA bill happen separately, the minister has authority to set RTS funding as per the legislation(4). The $173.7M RTS funding cut or 10% pa is still on the table.

  1. http://www.pyneonline.com.au/media/transcripts/press-conference-parliament-house-3
  2. http://budget.gov.au/2014-15/content/myefo/html/11_appendix_a_expense-02.htm
  3. http://education.gov.au/research-training-scheme
  4. http://www.comlaw.gov.au/Details/F2012L02010