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Media release: PC recognises universities’ role in future prosperity but misses the mark on R&D

March 17, 2023

The Productivity Commission’s Advancing Prosperity Report recognises that our universities are a central driver of Australia’s prosperity through their contribution to research and development, innovation and education.

Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said the Go8’s submission to the Productivity Commission set out recommendations to boost productivity growth and put Australia in a strong position to face the challenges ahead.

“Productivity is the only long-term factor driving living standards and long-term productivity growth relies on innovation and people. Australia must invest more in knowledge creation and human capital if we are to have profitable and innovative businesses, secure high-wage employment, and address challenges such as an aging population, climate change, and national security needs.

“It’s pleasing the Productivity Commission acknowledges the vital role of higher education in this mission and has incorporated some of the Go8’s key proposals into the Advancing Prosperity report. “As highlighted in the Go8 submission, the PC report noted the flaws in our higher education funding model and this underscores the critical role of the Universities Accord to address this systemic issue.

“The report also recognises the perverse nature of the former Government’s Job Ready Graduates Scheme. The Go8 submission proposed the abolition of the out of touch and unrealistic JRG in favour of a simpler model for university teaching funding by having a fixed student contribution and a Commonwealth contribution to reflect the variability of qualification costs.

“However, there is a missed opportunity when it comes to the role of R&D. The PC does acknowledge the role of universities in driving “new-to-the-world innovation” at the (technology) frontier, however it fails to fully understand the influential role of basic research in underpinning innovation and the urgent need for a National Research Strategy.

“This is a somewhat narrow view because it overlooks the critical nature of research and “new-to-the-world innovation” by research intensive universities – especially basic research and the importance of the diffusion of knowledge created by university research.

“As the universities which undertake 70 percent of all Australian university based research, we are acutely aware that basic research does have practical importance and that research is critical to Australia’s productivity,” said Ms Thomson.

Contact: Vicki Thomson, Group of Eight Chief Executive on +61 438 047 155