The Australian Universities Accord provides an opportunity to rethink the role of Australian universities and how they might be better supported to provide the education and skills needed to create a sustainable and robust society, economy, and environment. It should also be an opportunity to review how research is funded across Australia and where universities are best positioned within this ecosystem. ATSE wants to see a tertiary education sector which is well integrated, supported, world-class and accessible to all.
The Australian Universities Accord Interim Report provided five vital recommendations, that the Australian Government has adopted, and dozens of ideas for reforming the higher education sector. ATSE supports the interim recommendations and many of the proposed ideas for reform. ATSE was pleased to see that the Panel has raised several of our previous recommendations as possible changes and continue to advocate for their inclusion in the final report, including:
- Improving cross-institutional pathways and integration and cooperation with vocational education.
- Updating metrics to better reflect engagement, collaboration, and industry experience.
- A needs-based funding model, like the Schools Resourcing Standard.
- Ensuring research grants cover the full cost of research.
ATSE reiterates its support for these proposals, in the hopes of a fully funded tertiary education sector, where students can easily move between VET and university studies to best suit their needs. ATSE also notes its support for the Interim Report’s proposals to enhance First Nations research capability and partnerships, institute a universal learning entitlement, improve prior learning recognition and recognition of overseas qualifications, and improve university pathways for disadvantaged students. Due to the large volume of proposals suggested in the Interim Report, this submission will focus on those proposals where ATSE has concerns or can provide advice on implementation.
ATSE makes the following recommendations:
Recommendation 1: Ensure that a core focus of a new Tertiary Education Commission is on reducing regulatory and administrative burdens on universities.
Recommendation 2: Ensure funding mechanisms do not place a levy on international student fees.
Recommendation 3: Develop a dedicated Higher Education Fund to ensure long-term financial support for the sector.
Recommendation 4: Conduct an independent review of Australia’s research sector, with a view to raising sector-wide funding to an internationally competitive level of 3% of GDP.
Recommendation 5: Include additional income support for research students as a part of reforms to student income support.