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Union unveils future fund plan for better universities

19 April 2023

The National Tertiary Education Union has unveiled plans for a higher education future fund which would address critical issues in universities while providing vital protection in times of crisis.

In its submission to the Federal Government’s Universities Accord, the NTEU has proposed reforms that go directly to the issues highlighted by university staff in the Union’s consultation with members over the Accord.

Central to the Union’s submission is the proposal for a Higher Education Secure Future Fund (HESFF), which was overwhelmingly supported by NTEU members and university staff who took part in the Union’s consultations.

Under the future fund plan, the Federal Government would provide an initial $500 million in seed capital.

Reflecting the spirit of the Accord, public universities would also contribute to the fund through an annual levy, ensuring that both Government and the sector jointly invest in the sector’s secure future.

Public universities would be able to apply for competitive grants drawn from the fund’s interest for workforce development including converting insecure jobs to ongoing positions.

Grants could also be used for student access and equity measures but must not be for executive pay, building and infrastructure projects or payments to external contractors.

The fund could also support research staff being able to roll over their existing entitlements to new employers, and bridge the funding gap between grants, improving job security.

The Higher Education Future Fund Council made up of representatives from universities, and national staff and student unions will make decisions on grants.

Public universities will be allowed to apply for access to the fund's principal in a disaster or crisis which has left the institution without enough money to stop substantial job losses or a reduction in student access to education.

Modelling based on average sector surpluses over the last 10 years shows the fund could reach $4.2 billion by 2035 and be making annual investments in the sector of $150 million.

Other key policy proposals in the NTEU’s submission to the Accord include:

  • Capping insecure employment
  • Reversing Jobs Ready Graduates changes that cut average student funding, increased student tuition fees and shouldered students with more life-long debt
  • National governance guidelines and mandated employment data reporting

NTEU National President Alison Barnes said the future fund was part of a suite of constructive measures the union had put forward to the accord process.

“We’re putting forward a practical solution to fixing some of higher education’s most pressing issues while also keeping money for a future crisis like the next pandemic,” Dr Barnes said.

“The universities review is a golden opportunity to put our sector on a rock-solid footing for decades to come with secure, well-paid jobs that deliver the highest quality teaching and research.

“Insecure work is the root cause of more than $100 million in wage theft and the enormous pressure university staff are under every day.

“Through this future fund, universities can tackle this insidious scourge and also address other pressing issues.”

“Our submission to the Accord process is full of sensible reforms which would create better universities.

“It’s positive that other participants in the Accord have begun to get on board with ideas we’ve been championing for years like scrapping the Jobs Ready Graduates funding model.

“But this shouldn’t be an opportunity for self-interested cherry-picking that does nothing to improve conditions for university staff.”

Read the NTEU’s full submission here.

Contact: Nick Lucchinelli 0422229032 / [email protected]


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