CHARLES Sturt University says it may have to limit student intakes and review services as a result of funding cuts announced by the Federal Government on Monday.
In a decision that CSU expects will cost it several million dollars over the next two years, Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced a funding freeze for 2018 and 2019, before moving to performance-based funding growth in 2020. It will save the government $2.2 billion.
The timing of the announcement had “thrown the whole sector into chaos”, CSU deputy vice chancellor academic Toni Downes said.
“We are dismayed on a number of levels. This is a one-size-fits-all approach designed around major universities that will leave regional Australia and our students disadvantaged,” Professor Downes said.
CSU will now assess the funding freeze and make “tough decisions” to determine how to proceed in 2018, Professor Downes said.
“We haven’t worked out a figure [of what the cuts will cost CSU]. If we cap places to the same as 2017 it may be a small loss or maybe even come out slightly ahead but if we determine there is a need for paramedics or teachers in our communities, we have to consider that,” she said.
In the future, the university might have to decide whether to allocate more students to the dentistry course in Orange, increase numbers of teachers at Dubbo or boost paramedics at Bathurst, rather than lifting all three, to comply with the freeze, Professor Downes said.
Unlike previous attempts by the government to control education costs, freezing funding can be implemented without going through the Senate.
Regional Universities Network president Greg Hill said CSU and other country-based universities would have some tough decisions to make because their planning for 2018 would have already been finalised.
Regional universities would be hit hardest, he said, because as much as 40 per cent of their funding came from government.
“When 2018 arrives and they talk about freezing places, most [regional universities] will already be at or near capacity because of returning students. That’s before you even look at a new intake,” Professor Hill said.
He said most universities had already sorted their budgets and student intakes for 2018, and reduced funding would throw those plans into disarray.
“I hope sanity prevails and we get a more reasonable deal for regional universities,” Professor Hill said.
Mr Birmingham said it would be a disgrace if universities cut places for regional students and advised them to cut down on advertising and marketing instead.
However, Professor Downes said it was bizarre for the minister to cut funding in a bid to move away from a demand-driven model, while criticising universities for cutting places.