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April, 2024

Australians rank education low in Federal Budget priorities, reveals Forethought study

A fresh study by Forethought has revealed only 3.3% of Australians rank education as a top priority for the Federal budget, and that education is falling well behind areas such as cost of living (53%), healthcare (13%) and housing (13%) in terms of priority.

When it comes to education, only 14% of Australians believe universities should be a funding priority, compared to schools (44%) and childcare (29%). The marketing advisory, strategy and analytics company’s research was conducted in March, following the release of the Australian Universities Accord on 25 February.

The Accord was a 12-month review of Australia’s higher education system, led by a panel and chaired by Professor Mary O’Kane AC. The Government invested $2.7 million to deliver the Accord, aiming to devise recommendations and performance targets to improve the quality, accessibility, affordability and sustainability of higher education.

However, Forethought’s latest research indicates Australians disagree with the Accord’s focus on increasing participation rates in higher education, with only 19% agreeing that more workers need degrees. Instead, Australians would prefer to increase the quality of teaching and learning, provide greater financial assistance for students’ cost of living while studying, and minimise the impact of study debt for students after graduating.

“There are many important recommendations in the Accord, but now it comes down to where the priorities lie and where upcoming budgets will allocate spend,” – Rebekah Antonucci, Forethought Director of Education. “Our research highlights a real challenge for Jason Clare and the sector, in that everyday Australians don’t think investing in higher ed is as important as other areas. Heading into an election year, increasing investment in higher ed would be a hard sell. Additionally, where investment is made, Australians would prefer to see a focus on the quality of the higher education offer and minimisation of the increasing financial burden for students.”

Antonucci also highlighted the challenge for universities themselves, as Australians are sceptical about university spending and trust them less than TAFEs.

“We found many don’t believe universities are under financial strain or that they allocate their money in the right areas. They were also significantly less trusted than TAFEs as a collective. This highlights that it’s not just a job for Government, but for universities themselves to be better at demonstrating the value and impact of their programs,” she said.