The Group of Eight (Go8) welcomes the opportunity to provide comments on the draft TEQSA Guidance Note Research requirements for Australian universities. Please note that this submission represents the views of the Go8 as a whole and individual members may provide a submission, focusing on their specific circumstances. Also note that we are happy for this submission to be published and have no wish for any of it to be treated as confidential.
The Go8 members are Australia’s leading research-intensive universities responsible for 70 per cent of the sector’s research, with seven of its eight members ranked in the world’s top 100 universities.
The excellence of this research effort reflected in international rankings is also confirmed by the Australian Government’s research assessment exercise Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) which rated over 99.6 per cent of Go8 research at world standard or above and, importantly, 55.3% at the highest possible rating of well above world standard.
It is our strongly held view that excellent university-research drives industry-engagement, Australia’s international reputation for innovation and that education in a research-intensive environment is key to providing an innovative future workforce for Australia. For these reasons, Government funding should also preferentially support excellent research, wherever it takes place.
For these reasons, the Go8 supports the introduction of enhanced research threshold standards for Australian universities.
In providing this support, we note the (sensible) reliance of the document on ERA as a benchmark of research quality for Australian universities. However, since the release of the draft Guidance Note, the Minister for Education, the Hon Jason Clare MP, has directed the Australian Research Council (ARC) to discontinue preparations for the 2023 ERA round and to develop a proposal for a modern data driven approach to ERA, driven by peer review.
Given this disruption to the ERA timetable and operation, we recommend the following for inclusion in the Guidance Note:
- The outcomes of the amended ERA (or replacement research assessment exercise) should be used as the foundation for benchmarking against the research threshold standards. This should include any strengthening of the benchmark for world standard in the new assessment exercise.
- Given the likely delay in the availability of benchmarking from a revised ERA, TEQSA should:
- Not create an additional reporting burden for universities by instituting a separate research collection/assessment exercise as a proxy or replacement for ERA. In particular, these considerations should be mindful of the principle of “proportionate to risk” noting that the universities with the largest and highest quality research portfolios represent the lowest risk but will be subject to the highest reporting burden.
- Use existing ERA 2018 results until outcomes from the new/revised benchmarking exercise are available.
 Speech to the Australian Financial Review Higher Education Summit on 20 August 2022: https://www.jasonclare.com.au/media/speeches/5194-the-australian-financial-review-higher-education-summit