It is essential that system-wide reform of Australia’s research sector be included in the Universities Accord considerations. Without this, Australia will be unable to tackle the current and future challenges facing us.
University research is integral to the productivity gains that deliver economic growth and higher living standards; and even more so than in other nations given the high percentage of research which takes place in Australian universities.
Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Group of Eight (Go8) – which undertakes 70 percent of all Australia’s university-based research and spends $7.7 billion annually on research – says big picture reform is overdue and essential for Australia’s future economic and social prosperity.
“While genuine reform is challenging,” she said, “we do know the current research system, which relies on international student fee revenue to survive is unsustainable. This is a problem for every Australian. Research is fundamental to our prosperity and national well-being. Most people do not realise how much research drives higher living standards.”
As Federal Minister for Industry and Science, Hon Ed Husic MP said recently at the National Press Club, “… science doesn’t happen by magic. It takes sustained investment…….……. it takes patience. It means playing the long game. Being willing to invest in skills and basic research even where the short-term commercial outcomes are not immediately apparent.”
“Like research, especially basic research, the Accord is also very much about the long game and part of that process must include consideration of a cohesive National Research Strategy,” said Ms Thomson.
The Go8 has released a discussion paper The Need for a National Research Strategy, as part of the Accord consultation. The paper outlines the vital role of Australian research in driving domestic innovation and productivity. As a nation, we must invest more in R&D to lift the productivity growth rate that underpins prosperity. Productivity growth is also the way to tackle broader challenges such as national security, an aging population, and climate policy.
“A coherent, long term bipartisan National Research Strategy will give our universities the certainty they need to lead Australia’s productivity revival,” said Ms Thomson.