The contraction risks Australia’s labour market productivity in future decades.
Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the report was a timely reminder that the funding freeze would slowly start to inflict frostbite on the nation’s graduate labour force.
“If the number of skilled graduates that Australia is educating starts to fall much below the growth in our population, the portion of our citizens with a university qualification will begin to fall,” she said.
“But the number of jobs that need to be filled by skilled graduates is tipped to keep growing.”
“So either Australia won’t be able to fill some jobs that require skilled graduates – or we will need to boost our skilled migration levels with more overseas graduates so those jobs can be filled.”
The Mitchell Institute report argues that a primary objective in policy should be to ensure that tertiary education participation grows rather than declines in the years ahead.
It says this is important to meet the needs of the country’s growing population and to support increased participation in the workforce.
“In a period when successful mass participation in tertiary education is essential to the country’s economic and social wellbeing … this decline would, over time, also result in a decline in qualification attainment levels in the Australian workforce,” the report said.
It urges policy makers to devote urgent attention to how to avert the risk of seeing our country’s levels of tertiary education participation start to decline.