The release of the university sector's first ever comprehensive higher education policy agenda, A Smarter Australia, has been welcomed by The University of Western Australia as a blueprint for the nation's future.
The policy agenda, issued today by Universities Australia, is seen by the sector as pivotal step in recognising the central role of universities as drivers for the nation's economic health and prosperity in the 21st Century.
The policy statement, developed over the past 12 months, responds to four trends driving change in Australian higher education: the emergence of digital technologies; increasing globalisation and growing international competition in the Asian century; the need for economic and industrial renewal and diversification; and the need to arrest declining national productivity.
UWA Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson said it was vital for the nation's economic future that these key issues were recognised and addressed by all Australian political parties.
He joined other Australian universities in urging all political parties in the run-up to the September 14 Federal Election to consider "A Smarter Australia" as a template on which to develop higher education policies for the nation's future.
Universities Australia - a peak body representing Australia's 39 universities, including UWA - said national investment in higher education and research had lagged behind the rest of the developed world over the past two decades.
"While there has been an increase in the level of investment made in recent years, this has not been sufficient to lift Australia from the bottom 20 per cent of OECD nations for the level of public investment made in universities," Universities Australia said.
"As a nation we really need to do better if we are to realise the full potential of our higher education system in creating a prosperous future for Australia.
"A Smarter Australia calls for a partnership between the university sector and government to establish a practical and pragmatic policy framework around four key themes:
- Increasing Australians' university participation;
- Developing Australia's globally engaged university sector;
- A powerful research and innovation system that drives economic and social progress; and
- Increasing investment, improving efficiency and reducing red tape.
Universities Australia will mount a public campaign to promote a better understanding of role and contribution of universities to the economic and social wellbeing of all Australians.
"Our vision is for a smarter Australia - one that is prosperous, diverse and proud of its inventiveness. We believe that by following this agenda, we can make this vision a reality."
Michael Sinclair-Jones (UWA Public Affairs) (+61 8) 6488 3229 / (+61 4) 00 700 783