Universities ‘duped’ by spending cuts

VICTORIA University could lose more than $4 million a year under the federal government’s plan to cut university funding to boost money for schools.

The cuts, part of the National Plan for School Improvement changes to school funding, have been criticised by the state government and Victoria University.

Vice-chancellor Peter Dawkins said the university faced difficult decisions in dealing with estimated cuts of $2.7 million next year and $4.4 million every year after.

“We acknowledge the government will use funds to contribute towards increased funding for schools and we believe in increased investment in the school sector.”

But Professor Dawkins said taking funding from universities sent a mixed message.

“It suggests education funding is a zero-sum game, but many studies have shown that public money invested in education at all levels returns a positive economic and social benefit.”

He said extra school funding could boost participation rates of students in the western suburbs, but it could also leave them unable to access good-quality tertiary education.

“This defeats the whole purpose of investing in education.”

Under the plan, the federal government would invest two dollars in schools for every extra dollar spent by the state governments.

Prime Minster Julia Gillard said spending would increase up to $14.5 billion in six years, including an extra $4 billion for Victoria.

“The plan means better resourcing and better schools. It means a stronger, smarter and fairer Australia for the future.”

But the Victorian government has slammed the cuts to university spending of close to $200 million over two years. A statement said universities had a right to feel duped.

“The most needy students will be burdened with greater debt. In addition, thousands of Victorian families will be hit with higher study costs with the abolition of upfront fee discounts.”