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STEM courses would be hardest hit by proposed university cuts

24 August, 2017

Science, technology, engineering and maths courses – crucial for future skills and economic growth – would be hardest hit by the Government's proposed cuts to university funding.

New analysis by Universities Australia has confirmed the STEM disciplines will take the biggest hit of any field of study if the legislation passes, bearing 35% of the brunt of the $1.2 billion in cuts.

And while Government funding for each student place in a STEM course would be cut, STEM students would have to pay higher fees for those places – even though the Government’s own figures show that STEM degrees make a vast contribution to the public good.

"As Australia’s economy transitions into a new high-tech era, scientific skills and literacy are going to be foundational for many more future careers," said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.

"In the next five years alone, there are expected to be an extra 126,000 scientific and technical jobs that will need higher qualifications."

"If we want Australia to be a STEM powerhouse, we can’t afford to cut public funding to train future scientists while also making science students pay more," Robinson said.

"This also runs counter to the Government’s own science and innovation agenda, which recognises the need for STEM skills more broadly across our economy."

A report to Government prior to this year’s Budget showed that STEM graduates delivered a high spillover benefit to Australian society, as well strong benefits for individual graduates.

For engineering graduates, the benefits of their degrees were analysed to have a 61% to 39% split of public and private benefit. For science graduates, 59% of the benefit of their degree was deemed to be public benefit – and 41% private benefit.

"The Government’s own analysis shows that these are precisely the kinds of graduates that we need in our economy and for our broader Australian society," Robinson said.

"If properly supported, their knowledge and skills will help to drive improvements in living standards and support technical innovation."

"Against a background of economic and technological change, increasing global competition, and a threat of widening disparity in opportunity – including between regional and metropolitan areas – university education is a way to bridge the gaps, shape our future and transform lives," she said.

The new analysis is released hot on the heels of National Science Week, which celebrates the important role of science in Australia and encourages science education across the community.

The estimated cuts across STEM disciplines over the next four years are as follows:


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Dr. Tony Pugatschew | Thursday, August 24, 2017, 12:33 AM
Proposed funding cuts. Adelaide University - new Medical Building UNISA - new medical building, new sports facility, new business school renovation, new health sciences clinic. Where is the evidence for current funding cuts.? New STEM facility in Hobart by UTAS - $600M facility with main aim to rejivinate Hobart. Blatant adoration for buildings rather than education. Maybe remove all the funding for STEM subjects and only fund the universities with serious interest and proven dedication.
Hedley James | Thursday, August 24, 2017, 3:02 AM
Belinda Robinson is using the ABC approach to pleading for no change: threats to the existing way of doing things will shut down the popular programs. The world is moving on and universities need to accommodate change. My message to universities is to either get with the new world, change your ways, or expect the internet to run over you. All knowledge is no longer the sole ownership of those in university teaching. (If it ever was). The internet is expanding with more and more accurate and reliable knowledge and at an economic, and timely, cost to those in need of the knowhow. Join the rest of us and become more competitive.
peter whiteley BEng FIEAust | Thursday, August 24, 2017, 12:42 PM
I have spent a lifetime as a practicing engineer in Australia, and internationally, knowing that every day I have been able to enhance industrial efficiency, reduce energy consumption, reduce pollution, improve workplace safety, enhance recycling - etc. By far the greatest contribution that Australia could make to Global warming would be to embrace nuclear energy, This comment is made after having lived in Oshawa in Canada, midway between the Pickering and Darlington nuclear power stations - and felt entirely secure. We need more people with a love for STEM to make the world a better place, and a strong , educational financial support to support this.