Australians support HECS for businesses, survey finds

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Australians support HECS for businesses, survey finds

A majority of Australians believe that a system similar to the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) should exist for business research and development founding, a survey has found.

The survey was conducted in May 2008, following recommendations from the Cutler Review of Innovation that Government consider income-contingent loans for firms for innovation.

1505 Australians aged 18 years and above were asked questions in a Nielsen Survey to explore community reactions to the application of income contingent loans to various policy areas.

Survey participants were asked if financial assistance provided to businesses for research and development should be repaid when financial circumstances for the businesses were favourable, to which 61 percent of respondents agreed.

“The Cutler Review recommended that the Government should consider income contingent loans for ‘sole traders seeking to fund innovative projects’,” explained Tim Higgins, a lecturer at the Australian National University (ANU) College of Business and Economics who co-conducted the study.

“Our research shows that there is significant community support for that too,” he said in a statement to the media.

Besides funding business innovation, the survey also investigated HECS-style arrangements for areas ranging from training for elite athletes to childcare and drought relief.

The researchers found there to be strong support for repayable assistance from the government for elite athletes, and some support for similar schemes for farm businesses for drought relief.

However, there was little support for repayable government assistance for childcare, they found.

“There was little support for introducing such a scheme for childcare, and especially so from those who have received government assistance for child care,” Higgins said.

The researchers said that their findings on higher education financing indicated that the Bradley Review of Higher Education should recognise that community support does exist for a HECS scheme as part of the financing of universities.

“We found that 64 per cent of adult Australians agree, or strongly agree, that HECS is a good mechanism for providing some higher education funding,” said Glen Withers, CEO of Universities Australia and an Adjunct Professor at ANU who worked with Higgins on the study.

“This includes majority support from those who have actually incurred a HECS debt,” he noted.

The survey was conducted as part of an Academy of Social Sciences of Australia research project funded by the Australian Research Council. Results were released last week.

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