September 2017


Universities Australia is the peak body representing Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities in the national interest. We welcome the opportunity to provide input to the Department of Immigration and Border Protection’s process of simplifying Australia’s visa system. This submission complements those made by individual universities and university groups, which reflect their own particular circumstances and shared perspectives.

As the peak body representing Australia’s university sector, Universities Australia advocates for a visa system that is conducive to the maintenance of a strong and dynamic university system. We do so in recognition of the role our members play in contributing to Australia’s prosperity as well as realising Australia’s diplomatic, trade and investment potential. A poorly designed visa system would undermine the ability of universities to attract world class academics into Australia to work with our homegrown best and brightest, and to drive the global collaborations that will help us to create new jobs and new industries for Australia.

Australia offers some of the best opportunities for academic talent in the world through a combination of high quality teaching and research. Australia has positioned itself as a world leader in the university sector by recruiting the best talent available. However, a move to short-term visa arrangements would put Australia at a substantial disadvantage. The best and brightest would not come here to collaborate with Australian talent.

The most successful nations are underpinned by strong, vibrant university and research systems that are characterised by a highly-mobile workforce and concentrated pools of research expertise from all over the world. If Australian universities cannot recruit the best and brightest academics internationally, we deny our homegrown stars the opportunity to work alongside the best globally. This will lead to a downgrading and isolation of our own system, unable to benefit from the cross-fertilisation that great research and higher education requires.

International education is Australia’s third largest export industry and the largest services export, contributing $21.8 billion dollars to the Australian economy in 2016. Universities contribute approximately 67 per cent of this income. Australia is the third largest provider of international education behind the US and UK, with Australian universities responsible for the education and training of more than 350,000 students in 2015. Our role in fostering the potential of the best and brightest minds from around the region and beyond cannot be undersold, both in building capacity and capability among the students we educate and as a mechanism of the soft diplomacy and social benefit arising from improved cultural literacy, strengthened cultural linkages and enhanced cultural capital.

Business and industry groups recognise the value of a thriving international education sector. This sector builds a wealth of talent, supplying skilled labour to fill occupational gaps within the Australian workforce while also creating a pipeline of talent to supply industries that operate abroad with the advanced skillsets they need.
Higher education is one sector that is now truly global in nature, with providers competing intensely for the best students and staff - both academic and professional. Institutional success in research and global university rankings are becoming increasing dependent on collaboration which is built on the ability of students and staff to move between institutions in different countries at different stages in their careers.


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