CANBERRA, Dec 14 - The government has repeatedly failed to get its university cuts through parliament, but it is reportedly eyeing more than $2 billion in savings it can make without needing the Senate's approval.
This would including ending programs that help disadvantaged students and support research.
It may also freeze overall student funding at 2017 dollar levels.
An unimpressed opposition finance spokesman Jim Chalmers pointed to the government's persistence in sticking by its company tax cut at the expense of other budget areas.
"It says it all about the warped priorities of the government that they want to attack the students and universities rather than ditch that $65 billion tax cut, which would do much more to fix the mess they've made of the budget," he told Sky News on Thursday.
Universities Australia says education cuts would hamper efforts to return the budget to surplus.
"A funding freeze would effectively slash the number of people who have the chance of a university education, and cuts to programs that support disadvantaged students will make it harder for Australians from poor backgrounds just to get their foot in the door," chief executive Belinda Robinson said.
"That won't just be a blow for students and universities - it would be a blow to the government's budget repair ambitions and to the economy which now needs more - not fewer - skilled workers."
The mid-year budget update will be released on Monday.