In a time of rapid global change, many nations are looking to invest in sectors that will build social and economic opportunity for their citizens – recognising that opportunity and advancement are key to social cohesion and progress.

In Australia, higher education is a key driver of innovation, prosperity and opportunity. Universities not only prepare Australians for the jobs of the future, but through their research and innovation efforts, lead the charge to create those jobs for our economy.

The demand-driven system (DDS) has been key to ensuring all Australians with the capability to undertake a university education had the opportunity to do so. The introduction of the DDS saw an increase across the board in students from under-represented groups participating in higher education; however, now that the DDS has effectively ended, it is unclear how such diversity and opportunity will be supported into the future.

While not all Australians want to undertake a university education, all Australians benefit from the knowledge universities disseminate through teaching and research. Australia as a whole also benefits from the economic contribution universities make: an added $140 billion to GDP in 2014; a stock of knowledge built through university research valued at $160 billion in 2014; education of around 1.4 million domestic and international students in 2017; and employment for almost 130,000 full-time equivalent staff.

Beyond the numbers, however, are the social benefits delivered by university education and research. These can be as specific as the experimental treatment that gives someone more precious time with their family, and as broad as bringing together people from different walks of life to build understanding between cultures.

Australia, like other nations, must seek to secure these advantages for our citizens and society. Without a strategic, bipartisan approach to higher education funding and policy, we will not be able to build on these benefits for our future.

Full report: 2019-20 Pre-Budget Submission  (PDF 465KB)