Comments attributable to Group of Eight Chief Executive Vicki Thomson
The successful delivery of major initiatives in the 2022 Federal Budget will be underscored by the contribution that will come from the nation’s research-intensive universities.
This good faith budget has an appropriate focus on relieving cost-of-living pressures and reducing debt, underscored by the need to boost the nation’s productivity as the only long-term factor driving Australian living standards.
Good faith, because the Go8 knows the Government recognises that Australia’s research universities are key to the economic solution, and we will need to work together to deliver the changes needed through the upcoming Universities Accord.
Good faith, because we know the Government understands that high quality universities will need support so that we can support them to achieve their goals. The confirmation of the Government’s commitment to fund an extra 20,000 university places is a great start, and recognises the key role our world class universities will play in addressing Australia’s skills shortage and future workforce need.
The role of Jobs and Skills Australia will be critical in this process, and we look forward to further detail on how the almost $13 million funding allocation will be used to position the entire post-secondary education landscape, including research and research training.
Australia needs the advanced skills taught in our universities – the skills priority list confirmed that. With more than nine out of 10 future jobs requiring post-secondary education, it will be universities that will deliver the quality and quantum required for a more sovereign nation of doctors, engineers and lawyers, graduates in AI, Space, quantum computing and cyber security, all of which are critical to the nation’s economic prosperity.
The budget also confirms funding to support the Accord process which must focus on genuine funding reform, to ensure government and taxpayers get the best possible value.
The Accord provides a timely opportunity to consolidate research funding. Investment in R&D is critical, and the Government has set a target to lift investment in R&D expenditure to 3 per cent of GDP.
Go8 universities are without peer when it comes to Australia’s research effort. In 2020, the Go8 invested $7.2 billion into research and received $1 billion in research income from business and philanthropy, which is more than twice the rest of the sector combined.
In this economic climate some tough decisions have to be made and the Accord is the right mechanism through which to address the funding needs of Australian universities and develop a university sector that can meet the 21st century needs of Australia.