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In this instalment, we note the latest election policy pledges from the parties on university education and research, and recap the sector's take on Budget 2016. We also note the launch of the next phase of our public awareness campaign, Keep it Clever.

Complementing our crucial policy and funding advocacy, we highlight the Cadence Economics modelling which finds that having more gradates in the economy lifts wages and jobs for everyone. You may have already seen our comprehensive submission to the Higher Education Standards Panel in which we argue that the needs of students should be 'front and centre' as we move to make university admissions processes more transparent. We also recap the case to make the R&D tax incentive more effective at driving industry-researcher collaboration. And we update you on UA's sector-wide Respect.Now.Always. initiative to prevent sexual assault and harassment.

Overseas, a number of countries are reshaping their higher education policy and funding arrangements and we provide a brief overview of what's happening in the UK, Canada and New Zealand.

Guest pieces from Innovation and Science Australia Chair Bill Ferris AC - Research collaboration is a two-way street - and Australia's Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel AO - Teaching in 2030 - also illuminate some of the many weighty issues in play for the sector. A sector, as Alan Finkel observes in his piece, that is "squashed uncomfortably between public budget pressures and mass demand for higher education."

Finally, don't forget to save the date for next year's Universities Australia Conference, the flagship event on Australia's higher education calendar. We'll see you there from 1 to 3 March 2017.

Enjoy the read, watch and listen.

Barney Glover and Belinda Robinson
Chair and Chief Executive
Universities Australia

This Issue

Australia heads to the polls

Last weekend marked the mid-point of the election campaign, and as yet higher education has not emerged as a major issue - despite a few mentions in despatches. At this stage, the national polls are pointing to a very tight contest, although of course the seat-by-seat contests will be the ultimate outcome deciders. As the campaign continues, it's timely to recap on the sector's policy blueprint to all political parties, which will form the basis of our advice to the Government at the start of the next term of Parliament.

In 2015, Universities Australia held detailed consultations with its members about the seismic shifts underway in both the economy and the university sector. The result of those discussions was the sector's pre-election policy statement, Keep it Clever.

This detailed blueprint laid out a policy framework to safeguard a strong university system and a strong economy. It noted that Australia's economy would need another 3.8 million skilled graduates by 2025, and the crucial role of university research in creating new jobs and industries, saving lives and lifting living standards.

Read the full article.

Universities and Budget 2016

Australia's universities were bracing for substantial funding cuts when the 2016 Federal Budget was handed down on 3 May. Key points:

  • A reduction in university funding of $2.5 billion over the forward estimates;
  • Withdrawing the $1.2 billion efficiency dividend on legislated programs;
  • A 12-month delay in the introduction of higher education policy changes to 1 January 2018;
  • The release of an options paper on alternatives to the full deregulation of student fees;
  • The abolition of the Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT);
  • A reduction in funding to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP); and
  • Increased funding for the Tertiary Education Quality Standards Agency.

While the magnitude of the overall cut was reduced from last year, and the efficiency dividend withdrawn, the sector expressed deep disappointment at the proposal to reduce public investment in the engine rooms - universities - that will drive the national economic transition.

Read the full article


Universities Australia released new modelling ahead of the 2016 Budget which found a well-educated workforce creates jobs and lifts wages.

For every 1000 university graduates who enter the Australian workforce, 120 new jobs are created for people without university degrees, the modelling showed.

The analysis also found that the wages of people without a degree are boosted by $655 a year - or $12.60 a week - when more graduates joined the national workforce.

Having more graduates in the economy boosts the wages of workers without a degree through workplace productivity gains that make Australia's industries more competitive, as well as higher spending that flows into the economy.

Students 'front and Centre' in information on uni admissions

The needs of students must be 'front and centre' as further steps are taken to improve the level of transparency in university admissions processes, Universities Australia has said.

In our submission to the Higher Education Standards Panel, we propose that all universities publish clearer descriptions about how the entry processes work.

This would apply to both school-leavers and the majority of entrants who do not go straight from school to university.

Such changes - including the adoption of common definitions so that students can compare entry requirements between universities - would lead to better informed decision-making by students. In turn this could lift student satisfaction, retention and success.

"Students should have clearer and more comparable information when making one of the most important decisions of their lives," said our Chief Executive Belinda Robinson on making the submission.

Read the full article

Reforming the R&D tax incentive

Universities Australia has advocated reform of the R&D tax incentive to make it more effective at lifting Australia's low rates of research collaboration.

In its submission to the R&D tax incentive review, Universities Australia called for the tax incentive to be applied more efficiently in lifting the nation's innovation effort and to encourage more research partnerships between business and publicly funded research bodies including universities.

The submission also recommends that the incentive should be more strongly targeted towards small to medium-sized enterprises and be supplemented with direct measures, like competitive grants, mentoring and network development.

Read the full article

Respect. Now. Always.


In February 2016, Australia's universities launched a major new campaign to prevent sexual assault and harassment, in a groundbreaking sector-wide initiative.

The initiative - Respect. Now. Always. - highlights the determination of Australia's universities to ensure that our students and staff are safe from sexual assault and sexual harassment.

It builds on work done by individual universities in Australia over many years to develop policies, reporting procedures and support services.

The national initiative was launched by former Sex Discrimination Commissioner Liz Broderick AO, along with UA Chair Professor Barney Glover (Western Sydney University), Professor S. Bruce Dowton (Macquarie University) and Professor Ian Jacobs (UNSW Australia and UA's lead Vice-Chancellor on equity and diversity).

Read the full article.

Recent moves in international higher education policy

Across the globe, a number of countries are reshaping their higher education policy and funding arrangements. In this piece, we provide an update on the state-of-play with those processes abroad.

Read the full article.

Business ties: research collaboration is a two-way street

Mr Bill Ferris AC, Chair of Innovation and Science Australia


One thing I have learned is there is never a shortage of people around to tell you why something won't work.

For many, the fear of failure seems to trump the excitement of gain. In every aspect of life, it's the venturesome who make the new world.

They're people like Scott Farquhar and Michael Cannon-Brookes, who began their company with a $10,000 credit card loan, and a first employee who slept on Scott's sofa for a month or so.

Their company Atlassian now sells to over 40,000 companies in more than 130 countries, and employs more than 1000 people. The company's software helped NASA build and test the Mars Rover, and helped Cochlear make its world leading implants..

Read the full article


Dr Alan Finkel AO, Chief Scientist of Australia


What's coming for Australia's universities on the road to 2030? I've heard a lot of predictions, from the arcadian to the apocalyptic. The most credible to my mind is that universities continue to do what they have always done, which is to evolve to incorporate modern technologies and pedagogies, the question being how quickly and efficiently they get there.

At this point I need to confess. I was once a signed-up member of the Doomsday Club.

I envisaged teachers replaced by super-intelligent software. Bricks-and-mortar universities replaced by virtual worlds. An oligopoly of online degree providers: like a Presto, Stan and Netflix for education. Princeton, Stanford, Cambridge?

It was elegant argument based on engineering logic.

Save the date!
ua's higher education conference 2017

2017 marks the tenth anniversary of Universities Australia and our 2017 Higher Education Conference will be held from 1 to 3 March at the National Convention Centre in Canberra.

The Higher Education Conference is the sector's annual flagship event and in 2017 is expected to attract around 1000 delegates including Vice-Chancellors, Chancellors, senior university leaders, senior political figures, government and industry representatives, members of our research community, international education specialists, media and all those with an interest in higher education.

Mark it in your diaries now and remind your friends and colleagues to do the same!

For any enquiries about the conference, including sponsorship or exhibition opportunities, please contact events@universitiesaustralia.edu.au.

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