Page 3094 - Week 10 - Thursday, 15 August 2013

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What we do know is that the ACT non-government sector appears to have benefited. Non-government schools have got more, but mainly through their own national bodies’ direct negotiations with the federal government. I know all schools were seeking certainty and at least they now have that. There is now going to be a continued funding stream starting on 12 January 2014. I note recommendation 10.5:

The Committee recommends that the ACT Government provide the Assembly with more detail as to how the National Education Reforms will be implemented at an individual school level in the ACT.

I am sure individual schools, their boards and principals, would also be interested in that information.

The committee also recommended:

… that ACT Government should lobby to ensure a consistent approach is taken to the … Agreement across all education sectors in the ACT.

That boat may have already left the jetty. We have to rely on the Chief Minister’s assurances that the ACT has done as well as it could reasonably have expected.

The government, of course, skirted around the fact that the higher education sector had been savaged to pay for the national reforms. This robbing Peter to pay Paul approach is a typical Labor strategy but it comes as no surprise.

I think what was a surprise was the impact that such cuts would have on Canberra’s universities. The university sector is big business in Canberra. The ANU, the University of Canberra, the Australian Catholic University and the Australian Defence Force Academy have combined budgets of about $2 billion. This is money mostly spent here in the ACT on infrastructure, staffing, contractors and equipment. And this figure does not include non-university higher education providers, who account for at least 5.4 per cent of all higher education students and generate revenues of at least $700 million.

It is against this background that one has to wonder just how desperate or just how short-sighted the federal Labor government were when they decided to slash $2.3 billion from the higher education sector to help fund the implementation of the Gonski reforms. Whether they thought anyone would notice or that states would not care is anyone’s guess, but it was not long before the ACT tertiary education sector started to realise what it would mean for the ACT and started to raise serious concerns. And it is a significant impost on the ACT economy.

According to the Good Universities Guide, the ACT student population is around 32,000. Of these, around 8,400 come from interstate and a further 8,000 are international students. In fact, this high percentage of overseas and interstate students makes the ACT unique. As I said, we have about 32,000 students in the tertiary education sector, a healthy percentage of which are from interstate and overseas. It needs to be remembered that with a high percentage of interstate and overseas students comes a need for them to pay for accommodation, to buy food and other

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