Reshaping tertiary education and research for the future of all Australia

1 September 2023

The Universities Accord review is a once inageneration opportunity to create a higher education and research system capable of solving the greatest challenges facing Australia’s future.  

For Australia to ensure the availability of skills required to solve challenges like climate change and the capacity to make the most of an evolving global economy, the higher education sector must be well integrated and strongly supported.  

In it’s submission to the Universities Accord Interim Report Consultation, the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) maintains the need for a world-class, accessible sector in which research is fully supported through stable, long-term investment. Universities and the Vocational Education and Training (VET) sectors must be well integrated and positioned to teach the next generation while pursuing excellence.  

The proposed international student levy will not provide long-term financial certainty for domestic education. 

Relying on a funding model that is largely dependent on international student fees would tie domestic education funding to unpredictable fluctuations in international student numbers, potentially subjecting the entire university sector to boom and bust cycles. This wouldreduce Australia’s capacity to develop urgently-needed skills, and the sophisticated solutions enabled by long-term research. 

ATSE proposes the establishment of a Higher Education Fund aimed at ensuring sustained financial support to the sector. While this may not cover all aspects of higher education funding, it could help address critical areas like infrastructure which have been historically under-funded. 

ATSE CEO Kylie Walker said, “ensuring the future excellence of our higher education system requires a forward-looking approach that transcends short-term fluctuations. The Universities Accord represents a pivotal opportunity to provide a robust framework that safeguards the stability of research and teaching support, enabling our universities to drive innovation and knowledge for a better Australia and world."

ATSE also urges the Accord to prioritise funding certainty for research conducted within the higher education sector. This should be part of a more comprehensive initiative designed to elevate national research and development expenditure to a level comparable with global research leaders. The final report should recommend that the Australian Government formally establish a timeframe to increase R&D investment to reach 3% of GDP. 

“Australian universities play a pivotal role in nurturing our STEM skilled workforce and advancing national research and development endeavours, often through collaborations with industry and international partners. 

“Every dollar invested in Australian research yields more than $3 in return to the Australian economy. For the higher education system to consistently fulfill this crucial function in the future, the Universities Accord must establish a robust framework that ensures stability in both research and teaching support.” 

ATSE supports the Report’s proposals for enhancing First Nations research capability and partnerships, introducing a universal learning entitlement, improving recognition of prior learning and overseas qualifications, and enhancing university pathways for disadvantaged students. 

The Interim Report encompasses a broad spectrum of proposals, many of which align with suggestions previously made by ATSE in its previous submissions to the review. These recommendations include the enhancement of cross-institutional pathways, comprehensive coverage of research costs, and the modernisation of metrics to more accurately reflect engagement, collaboration, and industry involvement.