University funding cut could be a vote changer

LABOR'S decision to slash almost $4 billion from university funding is threatening to hurt it at the ballot box, with research showing it has the potential to be a vote changer on September 14.

Universities Australia-commissioned research to be released on Monday shows more than a third (34%) of "soft" voters - a person who has indicated a preference for a party but is willing to change their vote - would be more likely to vote for the Coalition if it promised to reverse the cuts announced by the Federal Government in its May budget and Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook.

A similar number of soft voters (37%) said they were less likely to vote Labor since it announced the cuts.

Almost a quarter of all voters said they would back the Coalition if it vowed to reinstate the money.

Three quarters of the 800 people surveyed by Enterprise Marketing and Research Services said the cuts to tertiary education were a threat to Australia's future, with 81% of Coalition and 64% of Labor voters agreeing.

Almost nine in 10 of the respondents said they supported increasing Federal Government funding for tertiary education.

UA chief executive Belinda Robinson said the poll, conducted post-budget during a six-day period, showed Australians valued tertiary education.

"This polling shows the strength of the community opposition to the government's cuts," Ms Robinson said.

"It also reflects just how strongly everyday Australians feel about the role of our universities in securing Australia's economic future."

UA has released the research as it prepares to launch an advertising blitz in 80 federal seats around the country later this week.

The campaign will target electorates with a strong university presence, many of which are in regional Australia.

It will be very similar to the "Not Clever" print ads which have been running nationally, but will focus on how the cutbacks will affect local universities.

"The local ad blitz is recognition that universities are vital to every facet of the Australian economy, whether in the cities, the suburbs or rural and regional towns," Ms Robinson said.

"In the regions alone they employ over 10,000 Australians, educate over 100,000 students and contribute around $2 billion a year to local economies."

University students have also been railing against the cuts, staging on-campus protests around the country.

The Federal Government announced cuts to the sector totalling $2.8 billion - including changes to self education expenses saving it $500 million - ahead of the budget, saying it was necessary to help fund the Gonski education reforms.

It came after the MYEFO showed university funding was being slashed by $1 billion.

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