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NSW Auditor General spotlights uni funding crunch

A NSW Auditor General's report which highlights the looming difficulties facing NSW's ten universities in meeting staff leave, superannuation and maintenance bills signals an upcoming funding crunch which risks reduced quality learning and the imposition of higher student fees and charges, warns Greens Senator for NSW and higher education spokesperson Lee Rhiannon. 

The NSW Auditor General's report, released today, is here.

"All ten NSW universities are operating in surplus but the NSW Auditor General's report shows there are lurgies within their budgets which make this little bit of fat far less of a good news story," Senator Rhiannon said

"The demand driven system is already set to increase pressure on university resources. The added factors of increasing long service leave, superannuation and maintenance liabilities should ring warning bells for the Gillard government set on an 'education revolution'.

"News from the NSW Auditor General that the state now has one of the highest student to academic ratios in Australia, moving from fifth to third position between 2009 and 2010, is also a poor marker of quality education in NSW.

"If the government is serious about improving participation in university it has to up public funding, starting by meeting the 10 per cent funding increase called for by the higher education sector and the Greens.

"NSW universities face a maintenance backlog of $783 million.  Long service leave obligations of $571 million, up 23 per cent on last year, a growth in superannuation liabilities of $1.3 billion over the same period and liability for excessive annual leave add to the burden.

Today the National Tertiary Education Union also released a survey of 1500 university casuals showing the alarming impacts of the casualisation trend. NTEU's briefing paper on the Casual Teaching and Research Staff Survey 2012 is here.  

"Universities are punishing the precious resource they should be nourishing by relying on casual staff who suffer financial and emotional uncertainty as a result.

"You can imagine why young academics, many with families, leave the university sector when they do not know if they will have a job next year to pay their bills and advance their career," Senator Rhiannon said. 

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