“It is impossible to overstate the transformative power of universities in changing lives, pushing the boundaries of knowledge, driving innovation, solving our gravest national problems and for securing Australia’s place as global influencer,” said Professor Sandra Harding, Chair of peak body, Universities Australia.
“Whether as a provider of international education; a generator of new products and knowledge; educating our people; or as a contributor to regional prosperity, universities are an essential ingredient of national success.
“Addressing the Universities Australia conference earlier in the year, Tony Abbott reiterated the importance of policy stability, certainty and consultation and observed that:
`as intellectual powerhouses, good universities deserve all the support and encouragement they can reasonably be given and as much freedom to run their own affairs as can reasonably be managed’ and that `not everyone needs a university education but everyone benefits from one.’
Universities Australia’s policy statement, A Smarter Australia, provides the basis for early discussions on the framework needed for a vibrant university sector that is more than up to the task that the public expects of it.
“International education and the New Colombo Plan, valuing all research, reducing red tape and the Government’s position in relation to the higher education cuts, particularly the $2,000 cap on tax deductible self-education expenses, will be at the top of the list of topics to discuss,” Professor Harding said.
“But our highest priority will be to convey our commitment to working in partnership in pursuit of our common goal to secure a higher education system that is the envy of the world.”
Professor Harding also acknowledged the Rudd and Gillard governments’ higher education reform legacy, both in the cities and regions, despite the set-backs of the past year.
“The demand-driven system creates an unprecedented opportunity for those with the ability, regardless of their socio-economic background, to obtain a university education,” Professor Harding said.
“The introduction of a properly indexed formula for per-student public investment means the level of funding can keep pace with the cost of providing every student the highest quality education.
“Streamlined visa processing and post-study study work rights are re-energising international higher education.
“New investment in national research infrastructure and programs for encouraging and supporting research excellence and capacity provides the foundation for strengthening Australian research; and the student service and amenities fee means universities can provide vital and necessary services to students.
“Looking ahead, Universities Australia will be seeking early meetings with Mr Abbott and his team to give effect to our mutual desire for a strong economy, a diverse and innovative industrial base, and a workforce with the requisite skills to meet the labour market needs of the future,” Professor Harding said.