Eight of Australia's top universities are pleading with the Senate not to link research funding with the successful passage of a fee de-regulation legislative package in the upper house.
Advertisements urging against the move - running in daily papers today - are signed by the vice-chancellors of the prestigious Group of Eight universities.
They include Monash University, Australian National University, and the Universities of Western Australia, Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Queensland and NSW.
The Coalition government has said that unless the fee deregulation and other higher education bills pass in the Senate, it will take the axe to $150 million worth of funding for the National Research Infrastructure Strategy (NCRIS).
Cutting funding for NCRIS - which has paid for several high-profile projects such as the Australian Synchrotron, the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre and the National Computational Infrastructure - would be disastrous for the country, the universities argue.
“Closing NCRIS down would cripple breakthrough research that strengthens some of Australia’s key industries, and lays foundations for the industries of the future," the chief executive of Go8, Vicki Thomson, wrote in the ads.
'Vital research that makes mining more efficient and crops more resistant to disease would not happen without NCRIS.
"Nanofabrication research, which will drive the development of new high-tech manufacturing, will have to close down."
Australian scientists would lose their jobs if NCRIS, which employs over 30,000 staff in 27 sites around the country, was killed off, and potentially be forced to move overseas.
As such, cutting funding was "a dumb decision," Thomson said.
Go8 believes the fee de-regulation package is critical for the future of a quality university system and should be passed by the Senate, but it does not want NCRIS funding to be held hostage by the Government, she said.