Australia’s university system has evolved to fulfil a range of functions, which individually and collectively help to drive public good outcomes and national prosperity.

University research not only leads to new products and new industries, it also informs public debate, improves our health and wellbeing and helps solve our most complex problems. It adds to our understanding of our history, culture, society and appreciation of the world around us.

Cutting-edge research in Australian universities also informs how we educate the next generation of university-trained professionals, researchers and leaders.

At a glance

  • In 2019–20, Australia’s universities undertook 36 per cent of Australia’s total R&D, and almost 80 per cent of public sector research.
  • universities perform 87 per cent of discovery or basic research in Australia.
  • in 2020, universities performed approximately 45.3 per cent of all applied research in Australia compared to 38.9 per cent by Australian businesses.
  • for every one per cent increase in R&D, Australia’s productivity rises by 0.13 per cent points
  • even though Australia is home to just 0.3 per cent of the world’s population, we produce around three per cent of the world’s research.
  • more than 90 per cent of Australian university research is rated as world class or higher.
  • universities represent the majority of Australia’s research workforce at 81,090 FTE out of a total workforce of 180,540 FTE (45 per cent) in 2020, and
  • postgraduate students compromise 57 per cent of the university R&D workforce, making them significant contributors to Australia’s research efforts.