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Deregulate fees to help innovation?

 The Australian    |     22  August 2014

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 The debate over deregulating university fees is now infecting innovation policy with the Australian Technology Network suggesting reform could forge closer collaborations between universities and industry.

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ATN logo

While key research drivers like the science and engineering sectors have expressed horror at the extent of funding cuts to their disciplines, the ATN argues in its submission to the Senate inquiry on improving innovation that “equitable” fee deregulation could help.

ATN executive director Vicki Thomson told The Australian that fee deregulation could encourage more niche courses that have close connections to industry. It could also provide stronger market signals from students demanding such courses that offer close industry connections.

“Deregulating fees may encourage more bespoke course offerings in closer collaboration with industry and so reinforce that feedback loop in the innovation system,” she said.

Ms Thomson cautioned that fee deregulation was only one aspect of the ATN’s recommendations. It is also pushing for the adoption of measures of the applied impact of research to better incentivise universities to engage with industry, as well as a national internship program to connect students to industry. The ATN also backs chief scientist Ian Chubb’s call for a national science strategy.

Universities need to be incentivised to engage with industry which will, in turn, enable industry to recognise and act on the natural market incentives to innovate — leading to increased competitiveness and productivity. Without this action Australia risks a market failure in the innovation system that will engage the handbrake on the Australian economy.”

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