Charles Sturt University (CSU) Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann has voiced his concerns for regional students and communities following the announcement of university funding cuts by the federal government in its Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.
The government has vowed to cut $2.2 billion through measures such as capping funding for Commonwealth Government Supported (CGS) places at universities to 2017 levels.
"The potential impact to regional universities and our current and potential students is likely to be severe," Professor Vann said.
“The cuts will turn students away from studying in our regions and goes against our mission and vision to provide job-ready graduates to support the professions in our regions.
“The outcome from this is a cut in funding to universities at a time when regional Australia depends on us delivering the workforce of the future.
“The government claims to be increasing funding in higher education but they are trying to dress up cuts as investment because they are assuming universities will continue to increase enrolments even though they will not get government support.
“To put it simply, this is a funding cut and the people of our communities know better than to swallow the government’s spin.”
Professor Vann said the announcement by the Federal Government is another example of their one-size-fits-all approach to higher education.
“The government has failed to take into consideration the needs of regional universities that service a large and diverse part of Australia,” he said.
“The government is throwing a spanner into the works of the system. It looks very much like revenge for the government’s failure to pass their legislation in the Senate.
"The building of Charles Sturt University in Port Macquarie, a campus that with Commonwealth support we invested over $50 million dollars in to provide higher education to the Mid North Coast, is nearing capacity and stage two planning is underway.
“This Campus has had a positive impact on entire the Port Macquarie region, not just through the provision of education, but also through the economic impact to the region. Capping student numbers will force the University to make tough decisions about where we invest for the future. With capped funding, we will certainly not be able to invest everywhere, and perhaps not even retain all the sites we have," Professor Vann said.
Professor Vann has echoed the sentiments of Universities Australia who have also been critical of the Federal Government’s funding cuts by highlighting that it will be the students and communities of regional Australia that feel this impact the most.
"These decisions have real impact on students, their parents, the local workforce on our campuses, and our other regional stakeholders and partners,” Professor Vann said.
“Since uncapping in 2012, Charles Sturt University has worked hard to ensure the quality in our courses and support services that ensures our attrition and completion rates remain stable, and our graduate employment outcomes have improved. The University has the highest Indigenous enrolments and completions in the sector, and alongside this we have very high rates of students from a low socio-economic background – achievements we are proud of and which demonstrate why the University is such an important part of our regional communities.
"The cuts announced by the federal government have a far deeper impact than those originally blocked by the Senate. Nevertheless, the University will continue to meet the challenge of meeting the needs of our community, thereby ensuring the economic and social wellbeing of the regions.”