The future of Australian higher education is poised at a significant
The Federal Government’s Review is nearing completion. Final
submissions in response to the seven issues papers released by the
government are now before those who will determine the future of our
The Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has declared its position,
in some detail, as to where we see the sector heading, but also why it is
such a critical part of the fabric of this country.
Fundamental reform is now a real possibility.
Importantly, the Federal Government has added higher education to its
nine key policy reform areas for its third term of office. Indeed the
Prime Minister told the Federal Parliament in June this year that, as it
relates to the review:
"We are going to have a proper examination and, when that
examination is completed, we will be announcing policy which will be to
the long-term benefit of the tertiary education institutions of this
nation and to the long-term benefit of current and aspiring tertiary
The Federal Education Minister, Brendan Nelson, has acknowledged the
significance higher education plays in shaping this country, saying: "what
is done about higher education will determine what Australia will be like
20 to 30 years from now. It’s about our future." (Australian
Financial Review, September 16)
The need for reform to the sector has been well and truly recognised.
The challenge is to turn aspirations into working policy and funding. In
the 15 years since the last comprehensive review of higher education the
demands on the system have altered dramatically. In numbers alone, there
are 56,000 more students attending Australian universities than there were
in 1995. Yet this increased growth has not been matched with investment.
There are almost twice as many universities as there were 15 years ago,
and competition within the sector is at an all-time high as we compete for
research dollars and more institutions – not just universities – are
eligible to receive Commonwealth funding.
Funding the broader sector
The AVCC has an ambitious vision for our sector serving the nation –
one which is underpinned by the knowledge that the sector will deliver on
the investment placed in the system. It is a vision which sees the sector
working in partnership with Government to deliver quality at all levels
– whether it is through our research programs, or our learning and
Australia has, essentially, a public system of higher education. Yet
our universities have shown themselves to be creative and entrepreneurial
in building budgets and programs, both in this country and overseas.
We need a policy that supports both increased direct public funding and
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