CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Good morning. It’s a pleasure to be part of this year’s summit, and thank you to the AFR, who have put together an excellent program once again.
I open by acknowledging the traditional owners, and I pay my respects to Elders who are knowledge keepers in community.
In education, we often hear of the ‘three Rs’ – reading, writing and arithmetic.
I note, of course, that only one of those begins with an R, which really does undermine the key message there.
But today, I want to explore the ‘four Ps’ – population, participation, performance and post-school pathways.
These ‘four Ps’ are fundamental to a successful higher education sector – and thus to Australia’s social and economic future.
But first, let’s set the scene – what might Australia’s economy look like in the future?
In June, Deloitte told us that more than 80 per cent of jobs created between now and 2030 will be for knowledge workers.
So in just two decades, two thirds of these jobs will rely on skills like creativity, communication and critical thinking.
Treasury’s Analysis of Wage Growth report from 2017 confirmed that international studies dating back to the 1960s show more jobs need skills like systems analysis, originality, written expression, complex problem-solving and critical thinking.
The message is clear – in the future an overwhelming majority of Australians will need some form of post-school education – university, VET or a bit of both, to enter and remain in the workforce.
So if we are to meet these needs we must make sure increasing numbers of Australians have access to post-school education.
This includes students from traditionally under-represented groups, the poorest among us, those from rural and regional areas, Indigenous students and those with a disability.
Earlier this year, a Productivity Commission report on the uncapped system found that it opened higher education opportunities to more Australians than ever before. And particularly to those from under-represented groups.
Indigenous undergraduate students more than doubled. Students with a disability rose 123 per cent, and regional and remote students increased by 50 per cent.
Regardless of your background, you had the opportunity of a university education – which we know can literally change lives.
The Commission’s report also found the vast majority of these students succeeded at university, entered the workforce and went on to earn as much as other graduates – despite significant barriers.
We know disadvantaged students may take longer to complete and need more support – but that’s no reason to exclude them.
A study from La Trobe University found that even if you don’t complete your university study, you still get some benefit – an average of $7,500 more a year in wages.
So clearly some university is better than none.
Under the current cap, government funding for student places is stuck at 2017 levels, in nominal terms.
Performance-based arrangements add some additional funding – and that’s good.
But if we are to rise to the Minister’s challenge of yesterday, and play our proper part in growth and productivity, the funding models must accommodate that.
It is simple – Australia needs funding for student places keep up with the workforce needs of the economy, with inflation and with our growing population.
You will have heard already that many of us heeded Peter Costello’s call – back in 2004 – to have one for mum, one for dad and ‘one for the country’.
Good economic and social conditions meant this boom was on.
In 2007 almost 300,000 babies were born, 100,000 more than the post war baby boom.
At the time, this was the highest number of births ever recorded in Australia.
So as the Minister noted yesterday the 18-year-old population will start to climb from 2021.
By the end of the decade, there will be 55,000 more 18-year-olds than there are today.
On current policy settings we will not have places to offer these budding students.
Even with the performance-based funding we will still be going backwards.
Australia’s world-class higher education sector is a drawcard for international students and researchers.
The quality of teaching and the reputation of Australia’s institutions, system and qualifications are among the top reasons why international students choose Australia.
The 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia national report found that 90 per cent of Australian university research was at or above world standard, and our rate of international research collaboration is above that of the UK, Canada and the US – despite our relative geographic isolation.
Despite our relatively small size, we are true global players.
International analysis has also consistently found that Australian universities are among the most efficient in the world.
With the recent release of the report into performance-based funding, and a highly collaborative approach from Minister Tehan on new arrangements, we are looking forward to a carefully crafted system, and an ongoing dialogue to check in with the system as it beds down.
Earlier this month, a Grattan Institute report looked at possible earnings for students considering vocational versus higher education.
Most of the reporting focused on the fact that some men with lower ATARs, doing VET course in a few select areas – such as engineering – could lead to higher overall lifetime earnings.
But another key finding of the report was that more people than ever are doing some form of post-school qualification.
This is good news – both for the students and for our society overall.
It also highlights that we need two strong systems – universities and vocational education – working side by side.
Six of Australia’s 39 universities are dual sector providers – which means they offer both degrees and vocational courses under the same roof.
But across the country there are hundreds of links and partnerships between universities and vocational providers to allow students to move within and across the both systems.
At Charles Sturt University last year, one in six students came to university to build on a VET qualification.
At The University of Newcastle there are more than 200 agreements with more than 20 regional VET providers.
More than 10 per cent of local first year uni students were admitted on prior VET award and those numbers are going up.
There are hundreds of fascinating stories showing how students make the most of universities and VET, and this is something UA will continue to explore.
This is not a story we tell enough, so watch this space.
But I have talked lots of facts and figures today, growth, productivity, serving the needs the of the economy – the workforce – but really our job, the job of universities, is about people.
About offering young and older Australians the incredible opportunity to challenge themselves, to broaden their minds, to tackle the hard and fabulous work, that you take on in every single one of our great universities.
But Chris from Whyalla tells that story better than I can.
He is living it.
Now, Whyalla isn’t a place that’s usually at the front of everyone’s mind.
Except, every once in a while, when it makes the news.
Whyalla is like a hundred – a thousand – other communities across Australia that have their roots in industry and manufacturing. In this case it’s steel, but in others its car making, food processing – the list goes on.
And when you hear about them, you know it’s usually not good news.
Like most people in his town, Chris and his family have a long connection with the steelworks. It’s where everyone there gets jobs – until there are no jobs left.
Faced with uncertain employment, financial stress, and long and harsh hours in the plant, Chris looked around at his community and decided he wanted to do something different.
Chris enrolled at university.
And this is his story.
I never get tired of watching that video. To see someone change their life – and change the lives of others around them – is to me what education is all about.
I started my speech by talking about the ‘four Ps’ of higher education.
I’d like to finish by adding four more, inspired by Chris and countless others like him:
And pride – pride in yourself – pride in your achievements. That what we can do. That’s what we can give to Australians. That’s our job.