Universities make an essential contribution to creating a more diverse, sustainable and vibrant economy with opportunities for better jobs and more fulfilled lives and, through research and innovation, the creation of new products and industries. To guarantee a prosperous and rewarding future for our children we need a smarter Australia.

In 2013 all Australians who are capable of undertaking further study at university have the opportunity to do so. Each year, university campuses around the country welcome thousands more Australians eager to seize this opportunity. The universities they attend are strongly placed to support them to realise their potential and contribute to their communities. Universities are proud to be playing their part in delivering a more equitable and prosperous Australian society.

Australia’s universities are internationally recognised for their high-quality teaching and research, and have a distinctly international character in both their student profile and outlook. After decades of engagement, our universities now boast some 2.5 million international alumni. Australia is the world’s third most significant destination for international tertiary students, behind the United States and the United Kingdom. This has shaped the character of our university system, and our nation. As an industry, international education generates nearly $15 billion in exports annually and supports around 127,000 jobs, 88,000 of which are outside the education sector.

Australians can have confidence in the public investment in their university system. Among OECD countries, Australia was fourth most efficient in producing graduates, and fifth most efficient in research. Even within the Australia economy, productivity growth in Australian universities has outpaced that in other sectors. 

Yet despite the sector’s contribution to Australia, and its demonstrated efficiency, investment in the sector lags behind that of our competitor nations. Australia’s total investment in research and development is below the OECD average, and public investment in universities is around two-thirds of the OECD average. 

Building on the achievements of the university sector offers a tremendous opportunity to expand the contribution that universities make to this nation. This is the vision for a smarter Australia. The possibilities are truly exciting. 

This statement sets out the principles and actions that can underpin a smarter Australia. It offers a reform agenda for the future.

This agenda will be achieved only with the commitment of universities, government  and all of those interested in our nation’s future. It promises to be a rewarding journey.


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