Gonski report implementation: Funding cuts to universities not justified, experts

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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says that funding the Gonski review’s recommendations on Australia’s school education system, would be critical to the nation’s future and it would not harm the universities. SOURCE: Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC)

By Mehroz Siraj

Two leading education experts have criticized the federal government’s reported decision of diverting $2.8billion from university funding to cover the costs of implementing the Gonski report’s recommendations. 

Last week, the federal government announced  a massive $14.5billion plan for the implementation of the key recommendations of the Gonski report that looked into the state of Australian schools and proposed various recommendations.

The report was prepared by a group of public officials headed by Sydney businessman, David Gonski.

It recommended that an extra $5billion be invested in schools nationwide with the aim of providing assistance to under-performing and disadvantaged children.

In his criticism to the government’s budgeted plan, the current president of the Federal Australian Education Union, Angelo Gavrieltos told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), that a selective treatment approach on part of the government was not justifiable.

“We do not believe that university funding be cut in order to provide for some of the cost for the Gonski reforms,” he said.

“Providing high quality public education at all levels of education should be a top priority for all governments,” he further added.

Criticizing the government’s decision, Fred Hilmer, chairman of the ‘Group of Eight’ research intensive universities, said that these cuts would have an impact on the ability of universities to deliver high quality services to its students.

“We’re going to have to have fewer teachers, schools and student services. That means it’s going to be harder to maintain the high standards that Australian universities have obtained,” he remarked yesterday on ABC Radio.

Hilmer also identified that the university sector was already facing a tough financial situation.

According to him, the fees for domestic students could not be raised as they were determined by the state and federal governments.

Remunerations being received from international students could not be increased because the very high Australian dollar was already hurting the industry’s competitiveness, he said.

Hilmer said that if funding cuts to the universities were to become deep-rooted, then the tertiary institutions would be forced to cut down on their staff, research and courses.

If the government continued to divert university funding towards the schools, then this would force them to produce more and more on-line material while reducing its lectures and tutorials, he said.

This, would not give students the real education and value for money that they would require in order to succeed in the knowledge driven economy of the modern era, he added.


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