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Universities Accord recognises crucial role of research and education as the key to Australia’s economic future

February 25, 2024

The Group of Eight (Go8) strongly supports the focus of the Universities Accord final report and congratulates the Accord Panel, led by Professor Mary O’Kane, on recognising the critical role of research and education in our future economic and social prosperity.

The landmark report rightly identifies that increasing investment in higher education and research is essential if we are to have a world class university system, sustain our standard of living and economic prosperity.

Quite rightly it has a central focus on lifting participation – increasing the number of students from disadvantaged or under-represented backgrounds who get a university education and importantly graduate with the skills required for modern jobs is absolutely necessary.

The comprehensive report also makes clear recommendations to increase our national research spend as a proportion of GDP and to move towards the full cost of research.

Group of Eight Chair, Professor Mark Scott, AO, said, “the Universities Accord has identified that adequate funding and support for research is critical to Australia’s future, and we need to move towards fully funding research, to fund teaching more appropriately to reflect different student need, and to build more diverse institutions to focus specifically on teaching and research specialisations.

“The report exposed a fundamental problem in our higher education system – two decades of underfunding in teaching and research. It concluded that research isn’t properly funded, the real cost of educating students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds is inadequate, including a lack of funding for the infrastructure necessary to sustain great teaching and research.

“The report has identified a significant national reform challenge. It is now important that, working with the sector, Government prioritises the funding model which will underpin both teaching and research and that we establish those timelines as expeditiously as possible.”

One extremely concerning element of the report was that the only revenue raising measure proposed is a tax on universities – Australia’s most successful services export sector. “This is extremely poor public policy and taxing the very system the report identified as underfunded is not a solution.

“This tax has the potential to undermine the vision of the Accord report by taxing university engagement with industry, philanthropy, and international education – all activities promoted in the rest of the report. It will not only undermine our hard-won and enduring successes in international education and damage our global reputation, but also our capacity to retain skilled graduates to underpin a productivity revival.

“As the Government considers the Accord recommendations it should keep the following in mind – we need a tertiary sector that positions Australia to be a prosperous, innovative country, one which leverages our substantial knowledge capability and competes with the world’s best, while at the same time ensuring our future students are front and centre of policy development.”

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

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