Wednesday, 25 May 2022

    Universities pivotal to recovery

    The 2021 federal budget just handed down is one of the biggest spending budgets in Australia’s history, as it should be, writes Professor Brian Schmidt in The Guardian.

    The global pandemic economic shock is not yet over, and spending on infrastructure, vocational education, child and aged care, and mental health will help much of Australia get back on its feet.

    But while the university sector is grateful for the funding we have, approximately $10bn for higher education over 2021-22, this is not new money and there’s been no increase to research block grants. There is nothing of note for our universities, except for $1.1m to support industry PhDs and additional flexibility for student visa holders when it comes to working hours. This is not only a real shame but a missed opportunity; universities are vital to our future prosperity.

    While the full-employment policy seems to be making a deja vu-invoking return to the 2021 budget, immigration understandably doesn’t feature due to border closures. Harder to understand is why the university sector has been left to bleed, given what most might expect to be its pivotal role in the future growth of the Australian economy.

    Gone will be a large fraction of the nearly $40bn of export income – the majority of which is not spent in universities, but in the broader Australian economy. Gone will be the large supply of skilled but relatively inexpensive labour. And gone will be the leading-edge research capacity our country needs to prosper post-pandemic, a significant fraction of which is supported by international student fee revenue.

    It’s absolutely imperative we open our national border and return our international students as soon as we safely can.

    The author

    Prof Brian P Schmidt is a Nobel laureate and vice-chancellor of the Australian National University


    Universities have been left to bleed in the budget but we are pivotal to the recovery (The Guardian)