After consultation with members in person and online, we’ve made our submission to the Universities Accord Panel in response to its Interim Report. We encourage you to read it, but we know you’re busy, so we’ve made things easy and summarised it here. We encourage you to share this with your networks!
Thank you to members who took part in these important conversations.
The university sector has proven itself to be resilient, entrepreneurial and high performing by global standards. But persistent structural problems remain that must be addressed if the sector is to deliver on its potential to be one of the key pillars supporting Australia’s economy and provide support for the societal change that is needed.
The Purpose of Universities
Universities play a critical role in creating, preserving, and disseminating knowledge. Beyond vocational training and applied research, universities are intrinsic to enhancing individual prospects, economic growth, and societal wellbeing. The Interim Report highlights a far too narrow view of the contributions universities make. The Accord must broaden its understanding of the purpose universities serve and the multifaceted benefits they create.
We endorse the focus on driving sectoral change with Indigenous-led approaches and recognise the imperative of Indigenous participation and leadership. Elevating Indigenous Australians’ participation and success in higher education is essential for the sector and the nation.
While we support the creation of a First Nations Higher Education Council, we stress the need for institutional and sectoral transformation to address the long-term challenges created by colonial structures of knowledge and value.
Equity and Participation
DASSH strongly agrees with the ambition to break down the barriers for students from groups who have so far been excluded from universities—Indigenous, regional, and low socioeconomic status students. But the scale at which the Report envisages participation will require significant investment.
We recommend a needs-based approach to funding the sector be established. We strongly support the removal of punitive measures in the Job-Ready Graduates package and a renewed focus on fostering inclusivity and achievement.
Funding the sector must move away from attempting to manipulate student preferences with price. It must be replaced with a system that reduces barriers to participation and provides students maximum freedom of choice.
The cost of university teaching supported by government must also recognise that teaching and research are fundamentally linked. A contribution to that research should be included in any funding model. Comprehensive funding of research and the alignment of research and teaching are critical. We support curiosity-driven and commercialised research for a dynamic and competitive university sector.
DASSH strongly disagrees with the Interim Report’s ideas on institutional specialisation. Research is fundamental to university teaching and learning and they should not be separated. Specialisation also presents very clear risks to the standing and capacity of regional institutions and national knowledge diversity.
Tertiary Education Commission
Drawing insights from Aotearoa New Zealand’s experience, we argue that while there are potentially some positive aspects to the creation of a Tertiary Education Commission in Australia, there are considerable risks relating to bureaucratisation, administrative burden, and mission creep.