Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson is in the UK this week for high-level talks with Government and universities, and will speak at the Universities UK annual members meeting.
“UK universities, like many others across the globe, are navigating a time of great uncertainty,” Ms Jackson said.
“Few of the challenges faced by the world’s universities are more daunting than Brexit — with the UK preparing to leave the EU in March 2019,” she said.
“Negotiations about the post-2020 arrangements are centrally important. If existing strong reciprocal relationships with EU universities change, it could endanger two-way student exchange and research links.”
However, the UK was forging ahead of Australia on R&D investment with the UK Government’s commitment to spend 2.4 per cent of GDP on R&D.
“This sits in stark contrast to Australia, where we spend 1.88 per cent of GDP on research and development,” Ms Jackson said.
“Research is vital to create the future jobs and industries we will all rely on. But the most recent figures show that business investment in R&D has gone backwards in Australia for the first time in almost two decades,” she said.
“We need to see Australia’s Government and businesses lift R&D investment so we can match countries like the UK. Otherwise we risk falling further behind the OECD average.”
Ms Jackson said the UK and Australian university systems had a strong relationship and often looked to each other to share advances and innovations.
“There is keen interest in Australia’s reciprocal arrangements that allow New Zealand citizens to study here as domestic students, the inclusion of student loans in trade deals, like we have with Japan, and developing a comprehensive international education strategy that mirrors ours,” Ms Jackson said.
“There are also mutual lessons both sectors can share about how universities are tackling sexual assault and sexual harassment,” she said.
At the Universities UK annual members meeting, Ms Jackson will share how Australia’s universities demonstrate to the public the vital role that university research and teaching plays in the economy, society and prosperity.
Ahead of formal Brexit negotiations, Universities UK and Universities Australia will engage with stakeholders about the importance of higher education and research to both economies – and identify areas of shared interest that should feature in any future bilateral agreements.