This timely review is broad in scope, and necessarily so. All parts of the nation’s higher education system are interdependent, and the higher education system is woven into every aspect of Australian life and society.
The higher education system is a national asset. Australia is best served by establishing long term policy settings for its higher education system. Now is the time to re-establish a national mission that recognises the teaching, research and contribution to society that Australia’s universities make.
Australia’s universities stand ready to address inequities in our society, and acknowledge the inestimable value to our nation of the world’s oldest living culture.
Universities grasp this opportunity to work with government so that the best progress can be achieved in basic research, applied research, commercialisation and translation, working
with industry and all other parts of society, and teaching the workforce of the future.
Principles to inform a policy framework
A principles-based framework should empower universities to make an even stronger contribution to the nation, and to Australia’s place in the world, than they already do. We recommend that the key principles underlying the framework should be:
- Stability: policy settings should support a long-term strategic vision for higher education and research.
- Integration: all elements of the system should be able to work together as an effective whole.
- Flexibility: government and universities should be able to adapt to changing circumstances and needs.
- Diversity: allow different universities (and other participants) to contribute to realising the vision in a range of different ways.
- Autonomy: set overarching goals and requirements while giving universities appropriate autonomy for how to deliver on these.
- Global connections: support Australia’s universities to engage with the world in education and research.
Priorities for the review
We recognise the importance of all the themes identified in the review’s broad and comprehensive terms of reference. We propose the following priorities guide the review because they are most likely to address the terms of reference, and produce policy solutions that set the sector and the nation up for the next generation. Universities Australia’s proposed priorities are:
- A holistic review of the entire higher education and research policy and funding ecosystem.
- Ensure universities can meet student and labour market demand now and in coming decades.
- Effective support for the research system, from pure basic research through to research commercialisation.
- Effective, long-term investment in the infrastructure that is needed for effective and sustainable teaching and research over the long term.
- Support for access and success for students regardless of background.
- Support for universities to develop and pursue diverse institutional missions.
We recommend the review – and the panel’s recommendations – should be informed by a focus on outcomes, which allows for a range of different ways to achieve these outcomes.
In an environment of significant national and global challenges, the policy framework needs to be flexible and adaptive. An effective framework will support universities’ efforts to meet a range of often unpredictable challenges in innovative ways. Policy settings should empower universities – rather than constrain them. A flexible framework set in place now will prepare Australia and our universities to keep the nation safe, strong and successful.