Maths and science courses hit in uni cuts

Maths and science courses will be hardest hit by the federal government's planned university cuts. (AAP)

Universities Australia's analysis of the federal government's proposed funding cuts finds maths and science courses will bear the brunt.

Australia's future engineers, scientists and tech experts will be hardest hit by the federal government's planned changes to university funding.

Universities Australia has a new analysis of where proposed cuts will fall and says science, technology, engineering and maths courses will bear more than a third of the brunt.

The peak body says this runs counter to the government's own science and innovation agenda, which recognises the need to boost the number of people with maths and science skills.

The government wants to cut university teaching funding by 2.5 per cent a year in 2018 and 2019, tie a portion of university funding to performance, increase student fees by up to $3600 over a four-year degree, and lower the loan repayment threshold.

It's labelled the funding cut an efficiency dividend, with Education Minister Simon Birmingham arguing that with more students than ever, universities should be able to teach more efficiently.

He says there's been a river of gold flowing into higher education in recent years.

The Universities Australia analysis finds the cut would reduce funding to STEM courses - typically among the more expensive to teach - by $405 million over the next four years.

All up, it says the cut will take $1.16 billion out of universities.

"If we want Australia to be a STEM powerhouse, we can't afford to cut public funding to train future scientists while also making science students pay more," chief executive Belinda Robinson said.

She pointed to a government-commissioned report that estimated maths and science graduates delivered strong "spillover benefits" to the economy, including paying more taxes and boosting wider productivity.

Health courses would lose $191 million, behavioural science and social studies $165 million and law, accounting, economics and commerce $138 million.

Senator Birmingham has said the government's package gets the funding balance right between students, universities and taxpayers.

Source AAP

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