Australia’s trajectory as a modern developed nation depends on a highly skilled, educated and innovative population and workforce. Successive governments have reiterated this as a key outcome for policies relating to education, training and skills. (Smart Australia – AMP)

Education and skills are the foundation for growth and prosperity. To compete internationally, our education and training systems need to be preparing people with the competencies, skills and attitudes that make them ready for work. (Business Council of Australia - Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity, 2013, page 76).

Universities are the engine room of every successful nation. Universities are critical pillars that power Australia’s economy, productivity, research, innovation, global engagement and industrial transformation.  (A Smarter Australia: an Agenda for Australian Higher Education, 2013-16, page 8) 

Australia’s universities are central to developing the workforce – our capability, productivity and the innovative potential that underpins individual and national prosperity. 

The contribution universities are making to the nation continues to grow:

  • Between 2003 and 2012, the number of students enrolled in Australian universities increased from around 930,000 to 1,258,000, and increase of 35 per cent (and up from 634,000 in 1996); 
  • In the decade 2003-2013, the proportion of the population aged 25-34 years with a Bachelor degree or higher increased from 25 per cent to just over 35 per cent;
  • Increasing demand for places and from employers for highly skilled workers, will see this upward trend continue – with the Australian Workplace and Productivity Agency (2013) forecasting demand for high skilled workers continuing to grow at between 3 and 3.9 per cent per annum. 
This benefits individuals, families, employers, the community and the nation.  Over the course of their lives university graduates are more likely to be:
  • Employed and remain in the workforce – reducing government outlays;
  • More productive and have higher earnings– with graduates earning 40 per cent to 45 per cent wage premiums compared with secondary school completers, and 66 per cent to 100 per cent premiums compared to those who do not complete secondary school.  
  • Earn, on average, $1million or more than people who finish Year 12 or less. 
  • Pay more tax to government – around $300,000 to $540,000 more in taxes over their lifetime – or about 8 times the typical up-front investment by Government in the course.