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Go8 Submission to the University Sector Review, Western Australian public universities

May 19, 2023

Thank you for the invitation to respond to the discussion paper as part of the University Sector Review commissioned by the Western Australian (WA) Government.

The Group of Eight (Go8) is pleased to provide feedback focused on the important role of research-intensive universities both at a national and state level. We believe this is in alignment with desire of the WA Government – expressed through the discussion paper – to strengthen WA’s research capacity.

Please note that this submission represents the high-level views of the Go8 network and the Go8 consents for this submission to be published in full. Go8 member universities – if invited – may make their own individual submissions, particularly the WA based Go8 member the University of Western Australia.

As globally top-ranked ranked research-intensive universities Go8 members make a significant contribution to Australia. The Go8 produces almost 125,000 graduates annually including 55 per cent of Australia’s science graduates, 42 per cent of engineering graduates and over 55 per cent of medical graduates.

Go8 members undertake 70 per cent of university-based research in Australia as part of a $7.7 billion annual investment in research. Overall, it is estimated that the annual contribution of Go8 members to the Australian economy is over $73 billion.

Research-intensive universities also have a critical role in engaging with their local community by driving workforce development, local industry research and innovation, and connecting to global industry and research experts. As such, having a strong research university in WA is of national interest and I would note the important contribution of the University of Western Australia to the national research ecosystem as the only top 100 ranked university in WA and responsible for over half of the university-based investment in research in WA.

More broadly, an analysis by London Economics calculated that in 2020 UWA contributed $4.17 billion to the economy including $1.77 billion from research and commercialisation activities.

The review discussion paper outlines several options for consideration. In examining these in detail, an underlying imperative must be to ensure that in any scenario, we don’t lose what has taken decades to build.

In this context, several of the recommendations made by the Go8 in response to the Universities Accord discussion paper are relevant, including the following:

  • The higher education and vocational training systems should be redesigned to form an integrated tertiary education sector oriented to lifelong learning.
  • Federal/State relations should be reframed to incorporate a model in which research-intensive universities become Federal institutions with dedicated funding to support strategic research activity.
  • A National Research Strategy should be developed with an overarching Federal Government body created to implement the strategy.

This body should also coordinate the development of national sovereign capability that is underpinned by research and will be critical to strategic international partnerships in advanced capabilities such as AUKUS Pillar 2. To provide more flexibility for universities in delivering this research mission the Go8 has also recommended Full Economic Costing for government research grants.

A summary of the Go8 submission to the Universities Accord discussion paper is provided as an attachment to this letter.