Labor understands that investing in education is the single most important thing we can do to maintain and grow Australia’s prosperity, and secure the jobs of the future. For every extra dollar Australia spends on a university student’s education, the average return is twenty six dollars, making the economic case clear.
Unfortunately, the Liberals are still pursuing their unfair and unnecessary plan for university funding cuts, deregulation and $100,000 degrees. In a speech on 28 October 2015, the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham, confirmed that their reckless changes have only been delayed.
Meanwhile, Senator Birmingham continues to argue the case for university funding cuts and deregulation. While he has said that he intends to consult with the sector before bringing back further legislation, the fact is that it remains the Liberals’ policy to cut funding for undergraduate education by 20 per cent.
By contrast, Labor has consistently recognised the need to fund universities adequately. In September 2015, we released the first tranche of our higher education policy.
Unlike the Abbott-Turnbull Government, Labor has developed a positive plan for more graduates, not $100,000 degrees. We want Australian students who start university, to finish university with a high quality degree. These graduates won’t just fill the jobs of the future; they will help create them as our economy transitions.
As part of our positive plan, a Shorten Labor Government will introduce a Student Funding Guarantee to remove the need for higher fees. Under the guarantee, government funding will be $2500 more per undergraduate place in 2018 than under the Liberals’ plan – an increase of more than 27 per cent. To give universities certainty, Labor will legislate the Student Funding Guarantee and index its value so it isn’t eroded over time.
Labor’s investment will help ensure students graduate with the skills and knowledge they’ll need in their working life, not just mark their name off at class. To deliver this, a Shorten Labor Government will work with universities to establish an independent Higher Education Productivity and Performance Commission to ensure graduates meet the needs of the future economy. And we will invest an additional $31 million to boost the quality of teaching in our universities through Tertiary Education Quality Standards Australia.
This is just one element of Labor’s comprehensive plan to build the innovative and productive economy of future. It builds on Labor’s plans to prioritise study in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and promote coding in schools. These policies are critical to the country’s future, because 75 per cent of the fastest-growing occupations today require STEM skills and employment in STEM occupations is projected to grow at almost twice the rate of other occupations. We want to make sure young Australians can fill those jobs and drive the new economy through their knowledge and creativity.
These policies also build on Labor’s record in government. The latest Science, Research and Innovation Budget Tables, released in July 2015, show that funding for university research increased by almost 45 per cent between 2007-08 and 2013-14. Overall, Labor’s last Budget saw funding for universities projected to double over the decade from 2007 to 2017.
Labor will continue to fight the Liberals’ funding cuts and plan for deregulation and $100,000 degrees – a plan that is overwhelmingly opposed by the Australian people.
Labor’s positive plan for universities is a $2.5 billion investment to drive productivity and growth, and deliver the jobs of the future. It is part of our strategy to advance Australia beyond the mining boom. The policy has been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. You can find more details at www.futuresmartaustralia.org, and a fact sheet is available at www.nodebtsentence.org/laborsfairerplan.