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Go8 Submission to the JAEPA 2021 General Review

30 August 2021

Japan EPA Coordinator
Regional Trade Agreements Division
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

The Group of Eight (Go8) is pleased to make this submission to the 2021 General Review of the Japan-Australia Economic Partnership Agreement (JAEPA). Please note the Go8 is happy for this submission to be published in full. 

The Go8 represents Australia’s eight leading research-intensive universities. The Go8 carries out 70 per cent of Australia’s university research and spends some $6.5 billion on research each year.

As a collective we:

  • are consistently the highest ranked Australian universities across the major international ranking systems (Academic Ranking of World Universities; the Times Higher Education World University Rankings; and the QS World University Rankings);
  • educate around one in three international students who choose to study onshore in Australia;
  • account for more than half of all Australian papers with international collaboration; and
  • attract industry funding for research that is twice that of the rest of the sector combined[1].

The Go8 considers Japan a strategically important long-term partner in higher education and research collaboration.

As of December 2020, there were over 600 Japanese student enrolments at Go8 institutions, including 260 postgraduate enrolments (41%) and 44 enrolments in higher degrees by research (7%).

Between 2016 and 2020, Go8 universities produced 9,757 Web of Science Document research co-publications with Japanese institutions, with 14% considered within the top 1% of documents for research excellence, and almost two-fifths (37%) within the top 10% of research excellence[2]. Japan is the world’s third largest economy, the second largest OECD economy, and a like-minded democracy.

The Go8’s ongoing cooperation with our Japanese counterpart, the RU-11 – the Japanese Government mandated group of 11 research-intensive universities – is robust and continues to feature prominently in global research policy matters within the multilateral Global Research-Intensive Universities Network (GRIUN) fora.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the importance of developing greater sovereign capacity that supports and accelerates a revitalised and strengthened economy better suited to post-pandemic realities – this sovereign capacity will be found with like-minded partner countries rather than from and without them. As the shape of the post-COVID world emerges, it is already apparent that access to global research talent will be increasingly fiercely competitive. Australia cannot afford to become an economic and research island and nor can our research-intensive universities and industries.

Understandably therefore, the Go8 considers Japan a priority partner for collaboration in research excellence across many complementary disciplines.

Recommendations

To expand this relationship as a priority partner, the Go8 seeks an enhanced bilateral JAEPA framework that:

  1. Improves the mobility between the two countries for research talent, including academics and higher degree by research students, but especially industry partner researchers.
  2. Uses Japan as a pilot country for implementing Recommendation 10 of the Final Report of the Joint Standing Committee on Migration Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program (as reproduced in Annex 1).
  3. Further progresses the mutual recognition of qualifications between Australia and Japan – including automatic mutual recognition where appropriate – that will help facilitate higher education partnerships and university-industry research collaborations.
  4. Fast-tracks this mutual recognition in disciplines of critical emerging technologies including artificial intelligence, machine learning, cybersecurity, agricultural technology (‘agtech’), to name but a few; as noted in the Go8 submission to the Department of Home Affairs’ ‘Planning the 2021-22 Migration Program’ consultation[3] (and echoed in the Go8 submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program):

“Australia could facilitate the mobility of international talent in such sensitive areas by leveraging already existing security-related networks, such as the very active and engaged Five Eyes [and like-minded nations]. With those trusted nations and their (equivalent leading research status to Go8) universities, this would allow for harmonised and fast-tracked processes in areas of identified need, based on robust and trusted security considerations.”

  • Implements nationally consistent formal recognition of short courses and vacation studies undertaken by Japanese students while on exchange to Australia (and vice-versa as appropriate), noting there are barriers for Japanese students to undertake entire degree programs within Australia and that partial/short courses are more readily accessible, and can be run concurrently with courses offering language support.
  • Provide greater access for research services; for example, Australian universities are precluded from approaching Japanese Government project tenders directly.

Further, alongside any revised JAEPA, the Go8 recommends the following Australian Government actions to enhance the bilateral Australia-Japan relationship:

  1. Provide additional support for showcasing research to Japanese Government agencies and Japanese industry, either directly or indirectly through partner organisations (such as the Japan Local Government Centre {CLAIR, Sydney})
  2. Provide additional support via Government agencies (such as Austrade) to help clarify Japanese Government policy, identify suitable partner organisations, and assist with translation. Fee waivers may be appropriate for national priority research projects to reduce financial burden to researchers.
  3. Provider greater clarity regarding the Australia-Japan Foundation Grant, including providing feedback on unsuccessful applications. By way of example, despite supporting letters from Trade and Investment Queensland, Kobe City Government, the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, and various Japanese universities, a previous University of Queensland application was unsuccessful – and no feedback was provided.
  4. Implement programs that encourage student, academic and industry exchange activities; for example, an expansion of New Colombo Plan activities into Japan, and a new program targeted at Japan-Australia researcher/industry mobility.
  5. Provide formal Government support for existing and new bilateral programs that promote interactions between Australia and Japan, and survey opportunities to expand these agreements by incentivising participation from industry in both Australia and Japan.
  6. Create a National Centre for University and Business to build research commercialisation relationships (as per the Go8 and IP Group Australia Roundtable submission to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment’s University Research Commercialisation Consultation Paper[4]); this Centre could and should engage in international outreach with international industry and university partners, including in Japan.

The Go8 looks forward to ongoing engagement with the Department of Foreign Affairs to secure the best outcomes for Australia, its universities, and its trusted partners.

If you have questions regarding the submission, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at  vicki.thomson@go8.edu.au.

Yours sincerely
VICKI THOMSON
CHIEF EXECUTIVE

Annex 1: Recommendation 10,

Final Report of the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program

Reproduced from pxi-xii of the Final Report of the Inquiry into Australia’s Skilled Migration Program, Joint Standing Committee on Migration, August 2021; full report available at:

Recommendation 10

3.73      The Committee recommends the Government consider changes to post-study work arrangements for a subset of international student graduates where those graduates have:

  • Undertaken a university course (or a course run by a reputable nonuniversity higher education provider) leading to a job in an occupation with a persistent skills shortage
  • Demonstrated excellence for instance by graduating in the top ten per cent of all graduates in their course or achieving first class honours
  • Met relevant English language standards
  • On graduation, worked in a job that is relevant to their field of study with a persistent skills shortage

Such graduates would be eligible for a discount on the work experience component for permanent residency under the employer nominated scheme from three years to two years.

For graduates applying for a points-based visa, additional points could be awarded for those graduates meeting the above criteria.

The Government should also consider longer temporary graduate visas of three years to provide time and flexibility for graduates to find work.

As a special integrity measure the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency should undertake special and regular audits of the assessment of excellence measure to ensure standards are maintained.


[1] Go8 Facts of Distinction 2020; see: https://go8.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Go8-Facts-of-Distinction_web.pdf
[2] Incites Clarivate database, https://incites.clarivate.com/; accessed August 2021
[3] See: https://go8.edu.au/go8-submission-to-planning-australias-2021-22-migration-program
[4] See: Specific measures https://go8.edu.au/response-to-the-university-research-commercialisation-consultation-paper-on-behalf-of-the-group-of-eight-and-ip-group-australia-roundtable