Forethought: 3.3% of Australians rank education as priority in federal budget

Forethought - Rebekah Antonucci

Rebekah Antonucci: “Australians would prefer to see a focus on the quality of the higher education offer and minimisation of the increasing financial burden for students.”

Forethought research has found just 3.3% of Australians ranked education as a top priority for the federal budget, well behind the cost of living (53%), healthcare (13%), and housing (13%).

The marketing advisory, strategy, and analytics company’s study revealed that universities are not a funding priority in education. Only 14% of Australians think they should be, compared with schools (44%) and childcare (29%), which take the top spots.

Forethought’s research, conducted in March this year, follows the release of the Australian Universities Accord on 25 February: a 12-month review of Australia’s higher education system, led by a panel of eminent Australians and chaired by professor Mary O’Kane AC.

The Government invested $2.7 million to deliver the Accord with the objective of devising recommendations and performance targets that will improve the quality, accessibility, affordability and sustainability of higher education.

The advisory company’s research also found 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. Meanwhile, only 19% of Australians agreed that more workers need degrees.

Rebekah Antonucci, director of education at Forethought, said: “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.”

She said Forethought’s research highlights to the minister for education Jason Clare and the sector that everyday Australians don’t think investing in higher education 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.

“The challenge extends to universities themselves and the perception of the sector: Australians are sceptical about university spending. We found that 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.”

Top image: Rebekah Antonucci

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