Leaders across the higher and international education landscape in Australia have reacted to the victory of the Australian Labor Party and new prime minister Anthony Albanese, in the recent federal election.
The centre-left opposition party gained power for the first time in nine years, during which time the country has been led by a coalition government, most recently that of Scott Morrison with his conservative Liberal-National coalition.
Independent Higher Education Australia congratulated prime minister Albanese, followed by a statement in which Peter Hendy, CEO of IHEA, said that it “looks forward to working with the new government to build on the success of Australia’s world class higher education sector”.
“The new government has an opportunity to advance Australia’s higher education sector and drive the success of our national economy into the future by harnessing the growing capability of Australian independent higher education,” Hendy added.
Recently, the 2022 IHEA Federal Election Platform was launched setting out a series of beneficial sector reforms to re-energise Australian higher education, tackle skills shortages and drive economic growth during this new term of Australian government.
Prior to the election results, a supporting Australia’s international education and research sector report was released by the Group of Eight. It advised policymakers on how to utilise international talent in order to benefit from a renewed focus which would reposition international education and ultimately grow the economy and create higher living standards.
Among the Go8 recommendations are: introducing a new High Potential visa; increased support for researcher exchanges, bilateral research funding, and a commitment to supporting Australian researcher access to the Horizon Europe program.
Additionally Go8 called for “support to increase re-engagement and diversification of the international education sector”.
The government should help establish new markets and re-engage with existing ones to provide a pipeline of talent, develop a national scholarship program that would encourage high performing students from a diverse range of nations in areas such as engineering, IT or quantum technologies, in addition to a two-way New Colombo Plan-type program to operate in additional regions of interest, such as Latin America.
It should also re-establish the Endeavour Leadership Program which supported two-way mobility for research and professional development with priority partner countries, Go8 added.
“International education and introducing targeted visa settings will also be critical to ensuring Australia has access to welcoming the global talent pool and having a skilled workforce essential to meet the demands of new and emerging critical industries,” Go8 CEO Vicki Thomson said.
“International education and research are directly linked to economic growth and the opportunity of higher living standards.”
Elsewhere in the sector, Universities Australia said that “universities look forward to working with the government, and across the entire parliament, to ensure that all Australians have the opportunity to reach their full potential”.
Universities Australia congratulates @AlboMP and @AustralianLabor on the weekend’s result. UA looks forward to working with the new government. #highered https://t.co/kGPS2Ag6gd pic.twitter.com/h1gJ0MRIQy
— Universities Australia (@uniaus) May 23, 2022
“We will work with the government to deliver the productivity gains that highly-skilled people and technological and social advances provide to the economy,” said Catriona Jackson, chief executive of Universities Australia.
“Universities are a foundational part of an optimistic, productive modern economy and society. Our students, staff and researchers work across every area of human endeavour – giving our nation the best chance to tackle the toughest challenges and identify and grasp the big opportunities.”
Jackson highlighted the timely arrival of the new government, stating “as we emerge from such challenging times, universities stand ready to play the fullest role in building back and taking advantage of the full spectrum of our national talent”.
The country must “ensure universities are in a strong position so they can maximise their contribution to the nation”, she added. Pre pandemic, universities contributed $41 billion to the economy, supporting over 256,000 Australian jobs.
“It’s more urgent than ever that we invest in university teaching, learning and research capability,” added Jackson.
Alfred Slogrove, CEO of Study Gold Coast, told The PIE News the organisation is “always willing to work with all governments towards the benefit of our sector for our students, educators and the many employers that are dependent on its success”.
“With a new government in Canberra I’m hopeful that we can deliver better outcomes for our mutual benefit,” he said.
“The new government has made a commitment to create an accord to bring together universities, unions, businesses, students and parents to rebuild stability and trust in the tertiary education sector, which is a good start.
“The new prime minister Anthony Albanese has promised to create up to 20,000 more tertiary student places and he also made a significant commitment to the VET sector by reinvesting in TAFE, which of course is great news,” added Slogrove.
“With a new government comes new policy and we will be advocating to retain the good, like the flexible visa, work and post study work arrangements and update the outdated policies.”