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Wednesday, 3 February 2021
Page: 166

Mr TUDGE (AstonMinister for Education and Youth) (09:32): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Today I'm introducing Education Legislation Amendment (2021 Measures No. 1) Bill 2021, which amends the Australian Research Council Act 2001 to ensure continuity of funding to Australia's research community through the funding schemes of the Australian Research Council, or ARC. The bill will amend the Australian Research Council Act to update the existing funding caps and insert new funding caps through until 30 June 2024 to allow continued funding of quality research in Australia.

This routine update to the ARC's funding caps provides for anticipated inflationary growth so that the government can continue to support thousands of individual research projects.

These projects represent the cutting edge of Australia's research effort, undertaken in universities and research institutes across the country.

These efforts have been part of the Australian response to the COVID virus. In July last year, a research team from Monash University and the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent BioNano Science and Technology developed a test to detect positive COVID cases in about 20 minutes, and identify whether someone has contracted the virus.

As early as March last year, research teams at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research had developed the first wide-ranging global economic assessment of the effects of the COVID virus to help policymakers prepare a coordinated response to the economic costs of a pandemic as the virus evolves.

As working from home became widespread across Australia and the world, a research team led by ARC laureate Professor Sharon Parker at Curtin University began to survey approximately 1,000 workers from all around the world, asking them about their experience of working from home. Their ARC funded research is helping us to qualify and understand the transformative effect that COVID is having on people's lives and workplaces.

Over the next four years, with the passage of this bill, the ARC will deliver more than $3 billion in funding for research projects like these, ranging in size from tens of thousands of dollars, to the tens of millions.

ARC funding supports a huge variety of basic and applied research, as well as providing valuable research fellowships, research training, research collaboration and research infrastructure to the sector.

This bill ensures the continuing support of many thousands of jobs in Australia's research sector, as well as many more jobs in the industries that rely on our homegrown research expertise to stay ahead of the curve.

Australia's ability to respond to the challenges of the future relies in a large part on the knowledge built from the research strength of our universities. It is in order to support and grow that strength that we bring this bill to the parliament.

The bill also amends the Higher Education Support Act 2003to swiftly implement the Government's 2020-21 MYEFO decision to recategorise the University of Notre Dame (UNDA) as a table A provider, and to make a minor amendment to correct a typographical error.

The recategorisation of UNDA as a table A provider places UNDA on a more equal footing with other universities, to better serve its students and continue to achieve comparable outcomes to other table A providers. UNDA has proven that it delivers high-quality teaching and produces job-ready graduates. For many years, UNDA has been teaching a significant number of students in areas such as teaching and nursing. UNDA's domestic bachelor student load is similar to, and in some cases greater than, other table A providers. According to the 2018-2020 graduate outcomes survey, 88.7 per cent of UNDA's graduates found employment within four months of graduation, exceeding the national average of 86.3 per cent. In the 2019-2020 course experience questionnaire, UNDA also rated significantly higher for graduate satisfaction at 91 per cent versus the national average of 80.4 per cent.

However, UNDA currently receives a limited amount of Commonwealth supported places due to its status as a table B provider, and this amount has not increased since 2015. This means UNDA has not been able to keep up with student demand for Commonwealth supported places with limited choice and equity for its students.

This recategorisation means that all non-medical domestic undergraduate students, including future students and current domestic full-fee-paying students, will benefit from access to Commonwealth supported places, with the Commonwealth subsidising part of their study. Importantly, as a table A university, UNDA will be able to offer Commonwealth supported places to students in all fields of education.

This is an investment of $27.2 million over four years from 2020-21 and $133.3 million over 10 years to 2029-30 to support UNDA's current and future students.

As a transitional arrangement, provisions in part 2-2 of HESA will continue to apply to UNDA as if it were a table B provider for 2021. This means that UNDA will not be treated as a table A provider for the purposes of receiving Commonwealth Grant Scheme (CGS) funding under the Higher Education Support Act 2003 until 2022. This approach is necessary to assist in the administration of UNDA's CGS funding agreement, noting that the amendments to recategorise UNDA as a table A provider will commence partway through the 2021 grant year.

However, to give effect to the government decision to transition UNDA's eligible students to Commonwealth supported places from semester 1, 2021, it is intended that the Commonwealth Grant Scheme Guidelines 2020 be amended in early 2021 to ensure that UNDA will receive CGS funding as a table B provider for all of its non-medical domestic undergraduate students in 2021, and that these students will be able to access Commonwealth supported places in 2021.

This means that UNDA will receive the sa me amount of CGS funding, as a t able B provider, for its students in 2021 th at it would have received as a t able A provider.

The amendments to HESA will also give UNDA access to new funding arrangements provided to table A providers under the Job-ready Graduates reforms. This includes funding from the National Priorities Industry Linkage Fund to support enhanced engagement with universities and industry, and demand-driven funding to support all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students from regional and remote communities to go to university.

This recategorisation of UNDA as a table A provider is fully supported by the university and its community. It is crucial that we make this amendment now to better position the university to serve its community and meet the challenges of the future.

I commend this bill.

Debate adjourned.