Universities transform the lives of our citizens as well as the future of nations. At the centre of every successful nation is a university system offering education and research which stimulates innovation and productivity, promotes global engagement and international competitiveness, fosters industrial diversity and increases economic growth.
University graduates contribute to economic growth producing over $170 billion worth of output annually and paying $50 billion each year in income taxes.
International education is the largest services export earner in Australia, second only to extractive commodities such as coal and iron ore.
International education supports 127,000 jobs of which 88,000 are outside the education sector.
International students, university researchers and the more than 2.5 million international alumni assist Australia in building the crucial diplomatic, strategic and economic bridges important for successful global engagement.
As the economy transitions from its heavy reliance on the resources sector, universities will play an ever increasing role in the transformation of Australia’s economy, by creating a highly skilled workforce as well as building our competitiveness and global position through research and innovation. Productivity will be driven through stronger collaboration between universities, business and industry.
Our ability to contribute to the ongoing economic and social development of Australia risks being undermined by the relatively low levels of public investment in Australian universities.
Australia invests just 0.76 per cent of GDP in public expenditure in tertiary education compared with an OECD average of 1.12 per cent.
UA’s election policy priorities for the future of higher education in Australia are:
Adequate, sustainable and targeted investment
- Australia’s public investment in universities is comparatively low. Australia ranks 25th out of 30 advanced economies for public investment in higher education as a percentage of GDP.
- UA’s immediate priorities for a sustainable university sector are:
- No further funding cuts to universities.
- Preserve the indexation formula legislated in 2010;
- Abolish the `efficiency dividend’ announced as part of the 2013-14 Budget;
- Abandon the proposed $2000 cap on self-education taxation deductions or, at least, exclude course fees from the cap;
- Further investment in (targeted) university infrastructure through the Education Investment Fund or other mechanism (e.g., to develop universities’ online capabilities);
- Investigate and implement a coherent national framework for the funding of clinical placements in health-related disciplines;
- Protect excellence in teaching and learning by ensuring continued funding for the Office for Learning and Teaching;
- Support continued provision by universities of necessary student services.
Higher education participation and access
- The demand-driven system is achieving participation targets and addressing projected mismatches between supply and demand for highly qualified work-ready graduates. UA supports:
- Retention of the demand driven system;
- Participation and equity targets and funding to ensure students from disadvantaged backgrounds have access to a university education;
- Investigation of mechanisms to encourage and support business in the provision of industry placements and internships.
Sustainable public investment in research
- The `stop-start’ nature of investment in research has serious implications for Australia’s ability to attract and retain international collaboration or to continue major research projects. Research is critical to the viability of all disciplines including the physical, technical and social sciences and contributes to national prosperity. UA’s immediate priorities for research are:
- A National Research Investment Plan (NRIP) including a long-term, sustainable funding model for research infrastructure. A permanent replacement for the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) is vitally important;
- Support for Australia’s research workforce by introducing a mid-career fellowship to replace the Future Fellowships Program, which has been granted only a short term extension. Consideration should also be given to extending the duration of Australian Postgraduate Awards; and
- Funding for the indirect costs of research. Significant cuts to the Sustainable Research Excellence (SRE) funds in late 2012 mean that only 30c per dollar of grant funds will be met by 2015 instead of the promised 50c by 2014. This means that essential research costs will continue to be significantly subsidised by teaching, putting the quality of teaching and student engagement at risk.
Strengthened international engagement
- International education is a significant industry: it is Australia’s fourth largest export earner generating approximately $15 billion annually. Australia’s international market is being challenged by the rapid development of university systems in traditional source countries and a renewed focus on international education from established competitors (such as the United States and the United Kingdom). UA’s immediate priorities to address this are:
- Full implementation of the Knight Review recommendations including streamlined visa processing for Australian universities;
- Implementation of the recommendations of the report from the International Education Advisory Council, chaired by Michael Chaney, entitled Australia – Educating Globally;
- Financial support for outward mobility programs aimed at increasing the Asian capability of Australian students and business.
Reduced regulatory burden and improved regulatory coherence
- Universities are subject to heavy regulatory and reporting requirements, which restrict the sector’s ability to direct funds to core activities and to innovate. This reduces our overall productivity. UA’s immediate priorities are:
- Consideration of the recommendations of the recently released “Review of Higher Education Regulation”;
- Implementation of the recommendations made by PhillipsKPA in the report Review of Universities Reporting Requirements released in 2012 in particular the establishment of a single national higher education data collection.