2016: The year in review

16 December 2016

It’s been a busy year in higher education in Australia.

Universities Australia has driven a bumper program of work on behalf of the sector – spearheading advocacy on a vast number of issues that affect our members

To frame our advocacy in 2016, UA launched two seminal pieces of work late in the previous year.

Our Deloitte Access Economics study quantified the contributions of universities to national prosperity, equipping the sector with further evidence to make our best case. And our Keep It Clever policy statement 2016 was a comprehensive policy blueprint to shape the agenda heading into a federal election year.

In March, we launched a new publication showcasing the world-leading research in Australia’s universities. Collected from decades of research excellence, innovation, and collaboration, it has been an invaluable reference in discussions with government, industry and global partners. 

Growing every year, UA’s higher education conference “Transforming Australia: universities and their communities” attracted an impressive 900 delegates in 2016. It laid out our advocacy agenda, with UA Chair Professor Barney Glover pressing the case for policy and funding certainty for universities in his National Press Club address.

Ahead of the federal Budget in May, UA commissioned Cadence Economics to model the spillover benefits to Australia of a highly-educated workforce. The Graduate Effect found that extra graduates in the economy also creates new jobs and lifts wages for workers without a university degree. 

2016 was also the year in which the Australian university sector came together to launch a world-first campaign to prevent and address sexual assault and sexual harassment. Our ground-breaking Respect. Now. Always. campaign builds on the work of individual universities over many years. It aims to lift the visibility of support services for students, gather data to guide further policy improvement through a national student survey, and share best practice between universities. 

In August, UA held a national forum to share best practice on student equity and access. The event highlighted the crucial role of the Higher Education Partnerships and Participation Program (HEPPP).

International education was a major focus of the year with big strides made to promote both international study in Australia and domestic students studying abroad. The education of international students generated a record $20.3 billion in export income for Australia. UA Chief Executive Belinda Robinson was appointed to the Council for International Education – chaired by the Education Minister Simon Birmingham – to implement the national strategy. 

Meanwhile, the number of students studying abroad as part of their Australian university degree has grown fourfold over the past decade.

With university admissions transparency on the agenda, UA put forward a model format for publishing admissions criteria which was adopted by the Higher Education Standards Panel in its recommendations to the Education Minister.

In December, in conjunction with the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), UA held an inaugural symposium to share expertise and build philanthropy capacity in member universities. 

We also ran the Universities Australia Marketing Communications & Development awards and professional development workshop. This event in November brought together more than 90 senior staff in marketing communications and fundraising from across the university sector.

UA’s Keep It Clever public awareness campaign was refreshed with a focus on the central role of universities in Australia’s prosperity. This phase showcased a series of case studies highlighting the economic, social and health benefits of university research and education.

And, of course, UA responded on the sector’s behalf to countless inquiries, reviews, invitations to comment – including our 2016 pre-Budget submission and a whole-of-sector response to the higher education options paper consultation.

It’s been a full and fast-paced year. We look forward to working on your behalf in 2017.