What does the Federal Budget deliver education?


The education sector had mixed responses to last night’s 2023/2024 Federal Budget announcement from Treasurer Jim Chalmers, with many in the tertiary space seeming relatively underwhelmed.

What did the Education sector want? 

Early childhood

Across the entire education sector, the needs and submissions were varied, with the Early Learning and Care Council of Australia (ELACCA) noting the early learning sector is facing what experts describe as its largest ever workforce challenge. 

The shortage of Certificate III and Diploma qualified early childhood educators (educators) and Degree qualified early childhood teachers (teachers) was already an issue before the effects of the global pandemic. But since mid-2021, these shortages have had an even bigger impact. The stress of heavy workloads and the flow-on of educator and teacher burnout have led to more experienced people leaving – a problem that has been made worse because of dissatisfaction over wages and working conditions.

The ELACCA wanted investment in a long-term funding package to improve both conditions and wages for early learning educators and teachers. Targeted action to attract and retain quality staff, as well as a call for nationally consistent registration for all teachers of early childhood, were also important, with a view to build greater professionalism and opportunities for ongoing professional development.

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Providing all Australian children with a base entitlement of subsidised early learning and childcare (a minimum of three days), regardless of parents connection to study or work, was another key recommendation.

Catholic education

For the National Catholic Education Commission, highlighting the role of Catholic education to provide affordable and accessible schooling and genuine choice of faith-based schooling across Australia was critical.

Support for the extension of the Non-Government Reform Support Fund (NGRSF) beyond 2023 was a key demand – to enable Catholic education authorities to maintain support for the ongoing and emerging national priorities in school reform.

An increase in the Capital Grants Program funding that would enable non-government schools to facilitate new construction and expansion of existing, low-fee schools in high population growth areas, as well as an extension of the Preschool Reform Funding Agreement, plus increased provision in the pre-school year – from 15 hours a week to 30 hours a week for children risking educational disadvantage – were among other recommendations called for.

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In 2021, almost one-third of Australians aged between 15 and 74 had a university degree. This figure was a huge leap from the population in the late 1960s, which saw just one per cent of Australians obtaining tertiary degrees.

But with Universities Australia (UA)  estimating that more than half of all new jobs created in the coming years will require a university degree, the organisation described the tertiary sector as being at a “critical juncture”, driven by skills shortages, economic uncertainty, international geopolitical tension, as well as continual industrial evolution that changes our domestic and global landscapes.

Extending eligibility for the Higher Education Loan Program (HELP), supporting sustainable clinical education and placement capacity and expanding clinical placement capacity including in non-traditional settings were just some of the other recommendations.

What did the Budget deliver to education?


To complement the Cheaper Child Care reforms (announced in last October’s budget), the Government will spend $72.4 million over four years to support the skills development of early childhood education and care sector workers. This will include financial assistance for ongoing professional development and to complete practical components of higher education courses.


Funding for 5,000 scholarships and the High Achieving Teachers program to attract more high-quality candidates into teaching. This additional $25 million will be used to pilot new ways to reduce teacher workloads and maximise the time they have to teach. $10 million is slated for a national communications campaign to raise the status of the teaching profession, with another $10 million aiming to support teachers in phonics, classroom management and programs in leadership.

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Broadening eligibility for teaching bursaries of up to $40,000 – to include mid-career professionals, people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, and other underrepresented communities – is another positive.


Funds have been retained in the Contingency Reserve (estimated at $3.7 billion) for the 5 year National Skills Agreement (currently being negotiated with state and territory governments) – scheduled to commence on 1 January 2024. Under this agreement, an additional 300,000 fee-free TAFE and vocational education training places will be provided.


The Budget delivers $128.5 million to fund 4,000 additional university places over the next four years, to boost the number of graduates from STEM disciplines and support the AUKUS program. Of these additional places, 800 will be allocated to South Australian universities, with the remaining places allocated across the country. Indexation on university HECS loans will rise to 7.1 per cent in June, adding to the debt burden students will have to repay.

From July 1, 2023, international university graduates with eligible qualifications from Australian institutions will now be able to access post-study work for an extra two years. It’s a move that’s designed to strengthen the pipeline of skilled labour. The cap on working hours for international students that was removed during the COVID-19 pandemic will be reinstated from July 1, 2023, although the level will increase to 48 hours per fortnight.

Students working in aged care will be exempt from the cap until 31 December 2023. Increased funding for university research, to drive innovation and boost productivity is another announcement within the Budget.

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Overall, government spending across the entire education sector – especially for universities, TAFE and other vocational training – is likely to increase, pending the completion of the current review of the university sector and the National Skills Agreement.

The reaction from education sector leaders

According to Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson, the budget strikes a balance between cost-of-living relief and fiscal repair, although a greater focus on boosting productivity is essential to help offset the medium-to-long term challenges for the Australian economy.For universities, this means greater investment from the government – which UA hope will be achieved in the next budget, following the Universities Accord.

Early Learning Association Australia acting CEO Megan O’Connell also welcomed the attempt for balance in both combating inflation and supporting people. The limited scope of funding increases in early childhood spending (primarily for training), though, was a sticking point.

You can read more about what the Federal Budget means for Australian education at Yahoo News.

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