In its submission to Australia’s Productivity Commission, Universities Australia has called for increasing the investment in research and development at Australian universities as a step towards enhancing the country’s productivity in the future.
The peak body has highlighted that a 1% increase in investment in university research and development can deliver $2.4 billion for the country annually. Over 10 years, this might translate into adding $24 billion to the economy.
International education is Australia’s largest services export and is led by its world-famous universities.
“Australia’s enviable economic growth, low unemployment and high living standards depend largely on improving productivity, but our productivity growth has slowed,” Catriona Jackson, Universities Australia chief executive said.
“Our university sector is at the heart of driving Australia’s productivity, through the highly-skilled graduates we produce and the technological and social innovation we generate through research.
“Universities are helping build the workforce of tomorrow, generating the bright ideas we’ll need and powering businesses to innovate and thrive,” she said.
Speaking to Australia’s public broadcaster, ABC News, Jackson highlighted that the funding needed to come through a collaborative effort of the higher ed sector, the industry, and government.
“One proven way to boost productivity is to strengthen collaboration between the industry and university sectors. The data tell us that there is work to do to raise Australia’s research and development investment.”
“One proven way to boost productivity is to strengthen collaboration between the industry and university sectors”
Jackson also highlighted that according to Australia’s National Skills Commission, over the next five years around 600,000 jobs in the country would “require a university degree, or higher”, thereby increasing the need for university education among the workforce and for the sector to be strengthened overall.
She said that in this context, the country needed to focus on the dual objective of promoting uptake of university education and the boosting of funding for research.
“So, these are two things which are really important to the future of the country. And a little bit more money from government and universities and industry, and we’ll just be stood in much better stead,” she emphasised.
The Universities Australia commissioned modelling carried out by Deloitte Access Economics, The importance of universities to Australia’s prosperity reveals that university education and increased funding in research and development contribute highly positively towards national productivity and economic growth.
While Australia’s funding for research has been overtaken by its competitors, the case for increasing the investment in research remains strong, as according to Universities Australia, for every $1 invested by the government in university research, approximately $5 is returned back into the economy.
Additionally, Universities Australia has forwarded a number of other recommendations in its submission to the Productivity Commission. These include expanding university places to meet the growing need for skilled graduates; uncapping places to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students; and supporting people wishing to upskill and retrain quickly via microcredentials.
The leading peak body has also suggested supporting complementary use of technology to help health professional students complete the practical learning components of their degrees on time, as well as removing red tape burdens that inhibit peak performance; alongside other measures.