Funding for higher education is set to increase according to the Albanese government’s first Budget—which already sets them apart from the last mob. Before the federal election, universities were placed to have their real funding cut by 3.4% over the forward estimates; now real funding will rise by 1.3%. This is in part due to the new measures to which Labor has committed.

In this Budget, the Labor government has followed through on its promise to increase Commonwealth supported university places by 20,000 over four years. These new places will be targeted towards disadvantaged students, and will be in areas of skill shortages like teaching, nursing, and IT.

While these measures may address some of the accessibility issues with higher education, they do not tackle the question of affordability. Under the Coalition government’s Job Ready Graduate Reforms, university funding was slashed by 15%, while student fees rose by 8%. More spots in higher education are a good start, but do nothing to lower the financial barrier for students, or to improve the quality of education and employment at universities.

One measure to keep an eye on is the Albanese government’s commitment to deliver an “Australian Universities Accord”. So far all we know is that this will involve a review of our higher education system by a range of stakeholders, and that it will have a broad focus. This may be a real chance to tackle systemic problems in the sector—a good start would be addressing corporate governance, insecure work, wage theft, the burden of student debt, and the political interference in research.

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