Senate debates

Thursday, 5 August 2021


Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021, Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021; Second Reading

12:44 pm

Photo of Anne RustonAnne Ruston (SA, Liberal Party, Minister for Families and Social Services) Share this | Hansard source

I firstly thank members who spoke on these two bills during the second reading debate. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency (Charges) Bill 2021 creates a new annual charge that will be levied on all registered higher education providers to recover the cost of TEQSA's sector-wide regulatory oversight activity. The Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment (Cost Recovery) Bill 2021 amends the TEQSA Act to enable the annual charge to be collected from providers.

During the debate today, and on other days, those opposite have referred to cuts to higher education funding, which is simply not true. We are providing record funding to Australian universities: $20.4 billion in 2021. This is up 17 per cent from the $17.3 billion that was provided in 2019. This includes an additional $1 billion boost to support university research, which is flowing to universities this year. Under our Job-ready Graduates Package, more Australians are studying at our universities than ever: 802,000 this year, compared with 763,000 last year—a five per cent increase. Commencements of new students are up seven per cent. Importantly, more Australians are studying the courses that are more likely to get them a job. Commencements are up 14 per cent in science, 13 per cent in IT, 10 per cent in engineering, 14 per cent in agriculture, 11 per cent in education and eight per cent in health.

Thanks to our record investments and reforms, Australian universities are in a better-than-expected financial position. There are a number of indications that 2020 outcomes were better than anticipated 12 months ago. Universities Australia estimate total revenue reductions in 2020 compared with 2019 to have been about $1.8 billion, or about five per cent of the total 2019 revenues, which is slightly below the lower bounds of UA's 2020 estimated range of possible revenue reductions. The media has universities indicating better-than-expected results. For 2020, universities are reporting surpluses. For instance, Monash University reported a surplus of $259 million; the University of Melbourne, $178 million; the University of Queensland, $83 million; the University of Western Australia, $58 million; the University of Adelaide, $41 million; Flinders University, $35 million; Edith Cowan University, $24 million; the University of Southern Queensland, $13 million; and Western Sydney University, $13 million.

Our boost to research funding ceases in 2021-22, which accounts for the decrease in higher education funding as shown in Budget Paper No. 1. This was not a bring-forward; it was a new one-off stimulus. The figures in the budget papers include the Higher Education Loan Program—HELP—outlays and show that the government's overall funding to universities in 2021 is $20.4 billion, which is an increase of 37 per cent since 2013.

TEQSA is currently consulting stakeholders on its future cost-recovery arrangements. Following consideration of stakeholder feedback and the passage of these bills, the calculation method for the annual charge will be set by regulation. I thank all members for their contribution on this debate, and I commend the bills to the Senate.


No comments