A new, broadly-based international ranking of higher education systems shows that Australian universities are some of the most productive, efficient and globally connected in the world, but are still significantly under resourced.
"This innovative approach to international rankings of higher education shows Australia at 8th place in the world for performance, but at 19th for the level of resources it receives," said Belinda Robinson, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, the peak national body representing the sector.
In ranking performance the Universitas 21 report looked at 48 countries and territories across all regions of the world, comparing 20 different measures. The measures were grouped under four headings:
- Resources: Investment by government and private sector (19th);
- Output: Research and its impact, as well as the production of an educated workforce which meets labour market needs (7th);
- Connectivity: International networks and collaboration (4th); and
- Environment: Government policy and regulation, diversity and participation opportunities (7th).
At overall 8th place, our universities are ranked ahead of countries like the UK, Germany and Japan.
Australian universities are only outperformed by the US, Sweden, Canada, Finland, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway. But when it comes to the investment in universities, there are 18 other countries in front.
"What this clearly reinforces is that Australian universities are highly productive and efficient, but investment levels are too low," Ms Robinson said.
"This comes as no surprise as report after report, including Government-commissioned reports including the Bradley review into higher education and the Lomax-Smith report into base funding, point to a significant under-investment in the university sector."
The Bradley review concluded that there was an urgent need to increase base funding by 10 per cent keep the system treading water and the sector is still waiting on the Government's response to the base funding review.
"There is no good reason why the Nordic countries should be performing ahead of Australia," Ms Robinson said.
"Very good progress has been made in recent years in a number of areas of higher education reform, but we must treat with urgency the unfinished business of base funding and research infrastructure investment. This is particularly important if we are to maintain our international standing and competitiveness in the Asian century."
The report can be accessed at www.universitas21.com