Flat White

Our universities don’t need more money, but instead a focus on the fundamentals

5 February 2021

4:00 AM

5 February 2021

4:00 AM

Covid-19 has forced Australian universities to face a harsh reality: the international students who pad their bank accounts aren’t coming this year. Only a few international students – including me — have chosen to stay and pursue our educations. Unsurprisingly, universities have been begging the government for more funding and special support. But the students would be better off if the government forced schools to tighten their belts and focus on what really matters — teaching. 

Sydney University acting vice-chancellor Stephen Garton stated, “If, as we all know, international students are funding a significant portion of the research in higher education — and let’s face it, universities do a very significant amount of the R&D in the nation — then we need a kind of rescue package for 2021.”  

But do these universities truly need this extra funding? Recently, Sydney University hosted a week-long event for students to cast “environmental spells” and engage in neo-pagan rituals. University of New South Wales (UNSW) unveiled plans to build a new $1 billion city campus 

Macquarie University axed 30 courses, most of which were in STEM programs. However, they did find funding to publish a study on what “extremist” conservatives say on social media. 

As a student, I would like to believe my university fees will improve my education. But when universities fund meaningless classes, build extravagant amenities, host swanky functions, and pursue partisan research projects, I question the need for high tuition prices and wonder why university leaders need to beg the government for more money. 

Public-funded universities act like addicts looking for their next hit of taxpayer funds. They do not value the hard-earned money of the folks who travelled halfway around the world for quality education, and they fail to put those funds to good use.  

The government should stop enabling universities’ lavish spending habits. 

Universities have funds and capability to weather the current economic crisis without relying on the taxpayer.  It’s time taxpayers demand wealthy universities take responsibility for their budgets and pursue self-sufficiency.  

Many fear the poor will suffer should taxpayers cut off universities.  They assume university fees would go up without government funding. On the contrary, public subsidies balloon tuition costs without increasing quality. As a result, Australia which spends exorbitant sums on our publicly-funded schools has quite low tertiary education rates among the lowest income groups.  

From 2009 to 2019, the federal government increased funding for universities by 34 per cent. University fees are also on the rise. Schools should have more money than ever.  

By cutting universities off from bottomless subsidies, those schools will have to refocus their business model. They will have to provide a quality product if they want more tuition dollars — an actual education. 

The government doesn’t know how to spend our money, but we do. Students, through enrollments, not government agencies, should have the power to decide which schools should get the most funding. The students will vote with their tuition dollars. Let the best uni win!  

Xinyuan Quek is a Research Associate for the Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance and an Economics student at Macquarie University. 

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