The Smarter Nation?

The Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) heralds a triumph for the current Federal Government: a Commonwealth Budget that will return to surplus earlier than anticipated. One could be cynical and say that the outcome is more than a little convenient for the current government given that the next Federal election looms within the next six months or so.

But the real tragedy of the MYEFO is to be found in the kind of inclusion that is reported below by The Conversation whereby the amount of money allocated to funding research in Australia’s higher education facilities. The amount might look small compared to the amount of money that is spoken about in the context of the Australian Federal Budget, but the consequences go well and truly beyond merely the dollar amount itself.

As the author of the article points out what this cut means in real terms is to be found when the dollar amounts is converted to numbers of people. As the author, Margaret Gardner, President and Vice Chancellor of Monash University, points out:

Nationwide, the government will fund up to 500 fewer of these scholarships for PhD candidates next year due to the research funding freeze. That’s 500 fewer people who will dedicate their talent to the creation of new knowledge in the national interest.

Margaret Gardner

And that is simply not good enough.

Research is vital to the development of knowledge in general and the standing of Australia’s tertiary education institutions specifically. If we don’t have researchers, people who delve into their particular areas of specialisation for the sole sake of understanding and gaining knowledge, then we also don’t have the next generation of academics who can subsequently inspire the following generation of students and potential researchers.

It is, in otherwise, a chain reaction that has consequences beyond the here and now, consequences that will ultimately be detrimental to Australia and her citizens.