Universities urge rethink on funding cuts as enrolment growth stalls
Sep 10, 2016 | News | by Learning Press staff
Australia’s unprecedented surge in university enrolments is over, according to new data from the federal education department.
The number of students starting an undergraduate degree grew by just 1.5 per cent between 2014 and 2015 - compared to a growth rate of 9.6 per cent in 2012.
Universities Australia, the sector’s peak representative body, says the latest figures confirm that growth has stabilised following the initial boom caused by the introduction of a demand-driven system.
The stabilisation helps universities argue against funding cuts threatened by a Government facing spiralling higher education costs in the wake of the Gillard Government’s decision to axe of the cap on university places in 2012.
A review paper on higher education funding released by education minister Simon Birmingham earlier this year argued the case for a 20 per cent cut in direct Government funding to universities, with higher student fees expected to make up most of the shortfall.
Universities Australia, which has run a concerted campaign against the proposed funding cut, says the increase in enrolments is now in line with population growth and demonstrates that the university system is financially sustainable.
“The figures show there was an initial surge following the uncapping of university places as the system absorbed ‘unmet demand’,” said UA deputy chief executive Catriona Jackson.
“This has now tapered off, easing financial pressure on the system.”
The new figures also show Australia’s continued appeal as an international study destination, with the number of overseas students rising by seven per cent since 2014.