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Go8 Submission to the targeted update of ANZSCO

7 October

Dr Fiona Manson
Statistical Infrastructure Branch
Australian Bureau of Statistics

The Group of Eight (Go8) is pleased to make this submission to the targeted update of the Australia New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO).

Please note the Go8 is happy for this submission to be published in full.

The Go8 represents Australia’s eight leading research-intensive universities, undertakes 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].

Understandably therefore, the Go8 has a particular interest in the inclusion of Researchers and Research Assistants from the National Skills Commission emerging occupations list[2] in the update of the ANZSCO list.

The Go8’s primary interest in the ANZSCO list is for international recruitment and its role in reducing the barriers to access global research talent. The recruitment of top academic talent occurs within an internationalised market, with Go8 universities regularly recruiting world-class academics from overseas. Ease of classification is important for our recruitment to work well and serve Australia’s national research interests.

This occurs, for example, through Australia’s Global Talent Visa program and other visa sponsorship programs, often with reference to the occupation code 242111 (University Lecturer). However, this occupation code reflects more of the teaching element of an academic’s workload rather than their research. Although it is recognised that one of the occupation’s ten tasks includes: “conducting research and undertaking consultancies in a particular field of knowledge[3], the University Lecturer description can present a hurdle to the recruitment of research-only academics. The most senior university executives are ordinarily recruited through alternative occupation codes.

However, the provision of research-focused occupation codes would help facilitate the recruitment of academics who predominantly undertake research, and also of research-only academics. For example, in 2020, Go8 universities alone employed almost 11,000 research-only staff[4].

Go8 Research-only staff, 2020

Go8 universityNumber
The University of Queensland2,305
The University of Melbourne1,956
University of New South Wales1,615
Monash University1,524
The University of Sydney1,386
The University of Western Australia765
The Australian National University706
The University of Adelaide690
Go8 total10,947

In addition, it should be noted that in general, the existing ANZSCO schema does not adequately capture research-oriented occupations or research tasks.

The Go8 also has interest in the ANZSCO list due to its use by the National Skills Commission to formulate the Skills Priority List, which in turn has additional relevance to visa sponsorship. This is also relevant Go8 universities utilisation of Australia’s Global Talent Visa program.

Beyond recruitment and visa sponsorship, the Go8 is interested in improving the quality of data collection related to research-related occupations in Australia and to help inform the ABS in its Research and Experimental Development surveys for Higher Education (HERD), Business (BERD), Government and Private Non-Profits (GOVERD).

Recommendations

  1. New occupation codes for Researchers and Research Assistants should be included in a taxonomy that reflects the Division categories within the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), and with scope for university and non-university researcher occupations (for example, as per Option 1 below).
  2. At minimum, and if larger revisions are not adopted, new occupation codes should be created for “University Researcher” and “University Research Assistant” (for example, as per Option 2 below).
  3. All research occupations – particularly University Researchers and University Research Assistants (or their equivalents) – should be categorised under Skill Level 1, that is, requiring a bachelor degree or higher[5].
  4. In addition to Researcher and Research Assistant from the National Skills Commission’s emerging occupations, the Go8 particularly recommends the inclusion of Data Analysts, Data Scientists, Data Engineers, Data Architects and Biostatisticians as occupations in the update of the ANZSCO list.
  5. Given the importance of research and researchers to the National Skills Commission’s considerations as emerging occupations, and as the Go8 conducts 70 per cent of Australian university-based research, it is recommended that the Go8 is consulted as a matter of routine in any further ANZSCO reviews.

The Go8 has considered two options for the inclusion of researcher occupations into the ANZSCO list. These options are listed in order of priority with a strong preference for Option 1.

Option 1: Create a new Minor Group entitled “Researchers”

  • Rename Sub-major Group 24 from “Education Professionals” to “Education and Research Professionals”;
  • Create a Minor Group 243 entitled “Researchers”;
  • Create two Unit Groups – 2431 and 2432 – entitled “University Researchers” and “Non-university researchers”; and
  • Create Occupations under these two Unit Groups aligned with the 23 Division codes within the Fields of Research in the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC).
    • For example: “University Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences Researcher”; “University Biological Sciences Researchers”; and “Non-university Agricultural, Veterinary and Food Sciences Researcher”; “Non-university Biological Sciences Researcher”.

The rationale for this approach is that all major research disciplines can be accommodated explicitly in the ANZSCO list both inside and outside of the higher education sector, and will also help ease and encourage mobility between sectors.

Further, this approach allows for non-university researchers, such as researchers engaged by Government, industry, or NGOs, to be represented in the ANZSCO list. The table below provides a snapshot of the relative size of the researcher talent within Australia using the most recent available comparable data:

Researchers in Australia by sector

SectorTotal researchersProportion
Higher Education (2018)[6]70,44159.8%
Government (2018-19)[7]7,5706.4%
Business (2017-18)[8]35,04829.8%
Private non-profit (2018-19)[9]4,7034.0%
Total117,762100%

The Go8 has a strong interest in supporting non-university sponsorship of international researcher talent into Australia, in part due to the research collaboration opportunities this presents for university researchers, but also to support Australia’s overall national endeavours in research.

Option 2: Create a new Unit Group entitled “University Researchers”

  • Rename Minor Group 242 from “Tertiary Education Teachers” to “Tertiary Education Teachers and Researchers”;
  • Create a Unit Group 2423 “University Researchers”; and
  • Under this Unit Group, create occupations entitled “University Researcher” and “University Research Assistant”.

This approach would directly address the obstacle currently faced by universities in having to recruit international academics with research-heavy roles under the “University Lecturer” occupation, the title of which does not currently always reflect their intended occupation particularly well. The Go8 regards this option as the preferred minimal revision to the ANZSCO list and preferable to no change to the existing schema.

However, it is worth reinforcing that this is not the Go8’s preferred option – at least, not in isolation – as the list really should not just focus upon university researchers and research assistants. Ideally if Option 2 were adopted, it would be supplemented by the addition elsewhere of Non-university Researchers and Non-University Research Assistants.

In conclusion, the Go8 strongly advocates for researchers and research assistants to be actively added as occupations into the ANZSCO list that can reflect these occupations both within universities, and in non-university settings, namely, in Government, business, and NGOs (Option 1).

As a second preference, the Go8 advocates that at minimum University Researchers and University Research Assistants should be included within the ANZSCO list (Option 2). The Go8 thanks the ABS for the opportunity to submit to the targeted update of ANZSCO and looks forward to continuing our constructive engagement on future revisions.

If you have questions regarding the submission, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at  vicki.thomson@go8.edu.au or 0417 808 472.

Yours sincerely
VICKI THOMSON
CHIEF EXECUTIVE


[1] Go8 Facts of Distinction 2020; see: https://go8.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Go8-Facts-of-Distinction_web.pdf
[2] As per: https://www.nationalskillscommission.gov.au/what-are-emerging-occupations
[3] See: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Latestproducts/E3D84A1059C79BD8CA2584A8000E79B7?opendocument
[4] As reported to the Department of Education, Skills and Employment; see: http://highereducationstatistics.education.gov.au/
[5]Occupations at Skill Level 1 have a level of skill commensurate with a bachelor degree or higher qualification. At least five years of relevant experience may substitute for the formal qualification. In some instances relevant experience and/or on-the-job training may be required in addition to the formal qualification.”; see: https://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/0/598C2E23628BB8FDCA2575DF002DA6B8?opendocument
[6] Higher education Expenditure on R&D (HERD), 2018; see: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/technology-and-innovation/research-and-experimental-development-higher-education-organisations-australia/latest-release
[7] Government Expenditure on R&D (GOVERD), 2018-19; see: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/technology-and-innovation/research-and-experimental-development-government-and-private-non-profit-organisations-australia/latest-release
[8] Business Expenditure on R&D, 2017-18; see: https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/industry/technology-and-innovation/research-and-experimental-development-businesses-australia/latest-release
[9] From the GOVERD release, as above.