Universities' productivity plan

The nation’s enviable economic growth, low unemployment and high living standards depend largely on improving productivity.

However, our productivity growth has slowed. Australians are feeling the effects – the cost of living is biting, and people don’t feel like they are able to get ahead.

We need to do everything we can to lift Australia’s productivity and move towards a more modern and faster growing economy.

Universities are at the heart of driving Australia’s productivity – through the highly skilled graduates we produce and technological and social innovation we generate through research.

In fact, if we could lift investment in higher education research and development by just one per cent, we could lift productivity and increase the size of Australia’s economy by $24 billion over 10 years.

Investment in Australia’s universities is an investment in Australia’s future.

Investment in Australia's universities equals investment in a more productive future. Universities Australia. April 2022.    Deloitte Access Economics. The importance of universities to Australia's prosperity. Universities Australia. April 2020    Universities Australia Submission. Submission to Productivity Commission inquiry into productivity. March 2022.

On 26 April 2022, Universities Australia publicly released its submission to the Productivity Commission inquiry into productivity, accompanied by a summary document and the the findings of economic impact analysis conducted by Deloitte Access Economics on behalf of UA in 2020. Access each document (PDF) at the following links:

Key findings

Universities support the economy and create jobs

Australia’s universities contributed $41 billion to the economy and supported almost 260,000 jobs

In 2018, Australia’s universities contributed $41 billion to the economy and supported almost 260,000 jobs.

In 2019, international education was Australia’s largest services export and third largest export overall.

Universities develop the bright ideas we need

For every $1 invested in university R&D, $5 is returned to Australia’s economy

For every $1 government invested in university research, $5 is returned to the economy.

Australia’s total investment in R&D is falling behind

But Australia’s total investment in research and development is falling behind our international competitors.

Universities help build the workforce of tomorrow

The university-qualified workforce has meant the Australian economy was $161 billion larger and Australia’s GDP 8.5% higher

The university-qualified workforce has meant that, in 2018, the Australian economy was $161 billion larger and Australia’s GDP was 8.5% higher.

Projected growth in 18-year-old population to 2030, compared to 2021

By 2024-25, the young adults of the mid-2000s baby boom will be ready to enter university.

It’s predicted that, by 2026, over 600,000 jobs will be created that require a bachelor degree or higher

Over the five years to 2026, the National Skills Commission predicts more than 600,000 new jobs will be created that will require a bachelor degree or higher.

How does Australia unleash universities’ potential to drive productivity and increase the size of the economy?

  • Ensure policy and investment settings build and maintain a strong, vibrant university teaching and research system.
  • Establish long-term support for university research to build a pipeline of innovative ideas that boost productivity and translate into economic impact.
  • Better support research and development by shifting the balance to direct support programs and away from indirect schemes such as the R&D tax incentive.
  • Expand the number of fully funded university places to meet the growing need for skilled graduates and prepare for the expected boom in the number of young adults looking to enter university in 2024-25.
  • Extend uncapped places to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, not only those from regional areas.
  • Extend the Higher Education Loan Program to Australians who wish to undertake microcredentials.
  • Create a time-limited fund to support partnerships between universities and community-based health services to ensure students can complete their practical learning on time, especially when we need more skilled healthcare professionals in aged, disability and primary care.
  • Create a time-limited grant program to support technology solutions, such as simulations, in clinical education. This can help overcome the logistical challenges of the pandemic and provide more innovative ways for students to complete practical learning components of their degrees.
  • Remove duplication and overlap in regulatory and reporting requirements to reduce the red tape burden on universities.