How much the government paid for Centre Alliance’s Senate vote, and other updates from the funding agreements

This post updates one I wrote in April, including new information from revised university funding agreements posted on DESE’s website.

South Australian university Senate special deals

The updated funding agreements let us see how much the government paid to get Centre Alliance Senator Stirling Griff to vote for Job-ready Graduates, which is $68.6 million for South Australian universities over the 2021-2023 funding agreement period. Unlike much of the other additional money in the funding agreements, these increases are ongoing rather than temporary.

I am not sure what criteria were used in dividing the money between the South Australian universities. In 2021 Adelaide gets 1.9 per cent more than it presumably would have otherwise, Flinders 2.7 per cent, and the University of South Australia 3.1 per cent.

More short course places allocated

In my earlier post the allocated short courses fell short of the announced budget value of $252 million. Now they slightly exceed it at $258.7 million, divided between 256 undergraduate certificates valued at $102.9 million and 491 graduate certificates worth $155.8 million. My updated spreadsheet of short courses is here.

The Department told Senate estimates that extra money was allocated to short courses from the national priority places budget, due to more applications for short courses. They said that $278 million was now been allocated to short courses. I am not sure whether this includes the $26.1 million for short courses in non-university higher education providers announced in the May 2021 Budget.

Whatever the total spend more funding agreement updates are to come.

National priority places still headed to an underspend

Despite the additional money going into short courses, we still look to be heading to an under-spend on national priority places. These are temporary bachelor course places over the 2021-2024 period. In the October 2020 Budget national priority places were allocated $298.5 million, with this down to $260 million in Senate estimates questions. But I am still only getting $167 million over 2021-2023 in the funding agreements, which with the usual pipeline arrangements would get us to a total over 2021-2024 of about $200 million.

Perhaps the dud deal pipeline policy, described in my original post, which assumes higher attrition than is likely in reality, put some universities off applying. Twelve universities have no national priority places allocated.

Whatever the reason, if there is an under-spend perhaps the surplus funds could be allocated to ‘over-enrolled’ universities (ie universities taking students above their Commonwealth Grant Scheme allocation).

Innovative places

I am a little confused by the ‘innovative places’. Unlike the national priority places, these were supposed to be included in the provider’s ongoing maximum basic grant amount. But this does not always happen in the funding agreements. For example, see the University of Adelaide’s funding agreement, where innovative places money appears for 2021 and then disappears in subsequent years.

Core funding for student places

Putting aside these short courses, national priority places and innovative places, the total ongoing funding for student places in public universities is essentially flat in nominal terms. Over each of the three years of the current funding agreements it will be around $6.5 billion. The promised indexation and growth funding are essentially fictional, with funding cut via reduced Commonwealth contributions and then rebuilt using slightly different criteria, with a preference to campuses in regional and higher population growth areas of cities.

Under flat CGS funding, additional places will come via universities having to deliver more student places to earn the same amount of money as before.

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