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Research overhaul key to stop universities falling behind

The peak body for Australian universities has called for a budget boost for tertiary institutions to make them more competitive globally, ahead of a wide-ranging review of the sector.

Apr 11, 2023, updated Apr 11, 2023

In its submission to the government’s university accord review, Universities Australia has recommended further Commonwealth funding for research and development, while also urging for the Job-ready Graduates Package to be replaced with a new model.

The submission, which contained 29 recommendations, also called for extending uncapped university places to Indigenous people, while also allowing for more people to access tertiary studies, regardless of their background.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said investment in research was at a 15-year low, and more was needed to make Australian universities keep up with other institutions.

“Australia urgently needs more of what universities offer and we’re calling for the government’s full support to make this possible,” she said.

“Skill shortages, economic uncertainty, geopolitical tensions and a new industrial revolution are changing the way we live and operate, we have no time to waste in preparing for these challenges, and universities have a role to play.”

The universities accord will be the biggest review of the tertiary education system for more than a decade and will look at how the sector can be strengthened.

The accord, headed up by Mary O’Kane, will release an interim report in June.

The Universities Australia submission called for university research development from all government departments to be at least the OECD average by the end of the decade.

The submission paper said it was crucial for Australia to be able to maintain its sovereign capability.

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“Australia’s universities have played a vital role in turning Australia into the safe, successful and prosperous nation it is today, but we cannot take this status for granted,” it said.

“It is vital that we build partnerships with our near and distant neighbours and seek a stronger understanding of the world’s many cultures, histories and emerging challenges.”

The submission also said the Job-ready Graduates Package, which created new university places for in-demand areas, be replaced with a new funding model ensuring access to universities are increased.

Jackson said more university jobs would be needed in the future if Australia was to be competitive across a range of areas.

“Government funding is falling while the cost of doing research is rising, forcing universities to rely on international student fee revenue to support these vital endeavours. This is not sustainable,” she said.

“Our role in supporting Australia’s safety, success and prosperity is more important than ever, but universities can’t continue to keep doing more with less. We need the full support of government.”

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