In the Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook release by Treasurer Scott Morrison in December last year, the government revealed that it would freeze university funding for student places at 2017 levels.
Rating agency Moody’s has warned of a $2.2 billion funding shortfall, forcing universities to review development and expansion plans.
New modelling by representative body Universities Australia has forecasted a projected 9,500 places to go unfunded by the government in 2018, affecting all courses, including accounting, across various universities.
“Universities are determined to honour their commitments to prospective students, but our early modelling shows the scale of the funding gap inflicted by the government’s cuts,” said Universities Australia chief executive Belinda Robinson.
“The cuts were announced on 18 December and took effect from 1 January. Many universities had already made detailed plans by that time on how many places they would offer in 2018.
“The impact will vary from university to university. Some will be forced to offer fewer places in some courses to avoid a budget black hole. Others will have to dig into critical maintenance funds or will lose the funding they need to run outreach into regional and remote Australia.”
The cuts are speculated to hinder universities from implementing any real change to their accounting syllabus, despite renewed pressure from the industry on higher education providers to review their course curriculum.
“The funding freeze is unsustainable. In 2018 and beyond, universities will struggle to cope with commitments already factored into their budgets. In the end, short-term band aids won’t be able to stem the bleeding,” Ms Robinson said.
“As government funding recedes, universities will also be under pressure to enrol fewer students in expensive but crucial courses such as nursing, IT, science and engineering.”
“These are areas where there are already skills shortages in the economy — a situation that will only get worse as the university cuts begin to bite.”
The accounting industry has been increasingly vocal about the current state of education, with employers losing faith in education system, following major universities such as UNSW, Macquarie University and Deakin University conceding that accounting degrees are not sufficient in preparing graduates to enter the industry.
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Jotham Lian is the editor of Accountants Daily, the leading source of breaking news, analysis and insight for Australian accounting professionals.
Before joining the team in 2017, Jotham wrote for a range of national mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald, and Channel NewsAsia.