A survey commissioned by Universities Australia and conducted by Nielsen on the attitudes of Australian voters towards universities has found overwhelming support from the public on the role of universities in the economy and society.
"The core finding is that the overwhelming majority of respondents believe that universities make a very important or important contribution to the economy (81%), the environment (73%), social opportunity (82%) and our links with other countries (66%)," said Dr Glenn Withers, Chief Executive of Universities Australia.
The majority of those surveyed (actual percentages in brackets) think that the core functions of universities in educating Australian undergraduate students (86%), postgraduate students (82%), conducting pure (72%) and applied (84%) research are very important or important.
58% of respondents are of the opinion that the share of government expenditure on universities should be 50% or more. The current level is 44%.
"Clearly the Australian electorate thinks universities are important enough to warrant support that would allow the full and early implementation of the Bradley Review recommendations, which include a commitment to increased government spending on higher education," Dr Withers said.
KPMG Econtech modelling commissioned by Universities Australia and released earlier this year has shown that funding universities according to the Review's recommendations will produce a return on this investment to Australia of 6.4% of GDP by 2040, with net gains being realised from 2014. This is well ahead of other proposed government investments.
"In this last week of the election campaign, and before the Australian people go to the polls to make their choice for who they want to govern for the next three years, we call on all parties to confirm their intentions regarding supporting universities into the future. 28% of respondents indicated that this would be an important factor in influencing their final vote," Dr Withers said.
The Nielsen survey was conducted from 29 July to 3 August, from a sample of 1548 people across Australia. Raw data is available from Universities Australia on request.
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