Our comments relate to the 5-year productivity inquiry reports: ‘The key to prosperity’; ‘From learning to growth’; ‘Innovation for the 98%’; and ‘A more productive labour market’. This submission supplements UA’s input into the initial call for submissions in March 2022 by the PC into productivity.
Universities Australia is the peak body for Australia’s 39 comprehensive universities. Our members are spread across Australia, in regional and metropolitan areas. They educate more than a 1.5 million students each year and undertake research that adds to Australia’s stock of knowledge, and to Australia’s economic and social wellbeing.
As noted in UA’s earlier submission to the PC, universities’ main productivity contribution is through teaching and research. Universities teach the workforce of the future, prepare young Australians for their careers and deepen the skills of the existing workforce. By training skilled graduates, universities power businesses to innovate and thrive.
University researchers make the discoveries that enhance businesses productivity and sharpen the competitive edge. Universities lay the groundwork for brand new industries and technologies such as quantum computing.
By partnering with firms, university researchers develop new products and better ways of doing things.
Universities are engaged in their communities, well beyond their roles in teaching and research. Universities are often a big employer and main economic driver in their regional and urban communities. Universities’ actions and responsiveness in recent crises including bushfires, floods and a global pandemic are powerful reminders of universities’ integration into their communities, and of what they can contribute.
Graduate skills, research and innovation and a wide range of activities to support the community have always been fundamental to Australian universities. These contributions now have a bigger impact, and the nation’s need for them is greater than ever before.
UA notes the questions raised by the PC covering a broad range of issues, including institutional funding, teaching models and research. UA will address these and more through the University Accord process in 2023.
• As the Productivity Commission reports note, a skilled and educated workforce is a key driver of productivity. The recent Jobs and Skills Summit highlighted the challenges faced in ensuring that Australia has the right skills base now and for the future.
• Australian universities have a vital role to play in addressing the nation’s skill shortages, ensuring businesses – big and small – have the workforce they need to fuel our economy.
• The disconnect, identified by the PC, between a more educated population and low national productivity is complex, including regional differences in education delivery and attainment.
• Australian universities are productive in both their research and education functions.
• The declining R&D intensity of the Australian business sector in a world of rising R&D intensity, coupled with the management capability issues raised in the reports point to challenges in the business sector.
• A better understanding of the policy drivers and potential for the incentivisation of industry investment in R&D needs to be a priority if Australia is to realise further productivity and economic gains from research investment.
• UA notes the difficulties raised in the report regarding the measurements of productivity in the non-market sector. UA would be pleased to work with the PC on exploring novel methods of productivity measurement in the university sector and further work to understand the linkages between national productivity and university productivity.