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Universities Australia – Election 2016 – Statements

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Australia now faces a stark choice: we either make our own investment—or we fall behind those nations that do.

Equipping ourselves for the dramatic economic transformation ahead is an urgent task. Indeed, our future prosperity depends on it. That’s why we need a new contract with the Australian public—supported by political bipartisanship—that grasps the direct link between our national investment in education, research and innovation, and Australia’s economic fortunes in the years to come.

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Women in STEM

26 June 2016      |     Universities Australia welcomes the Coalition’s commitment to lift science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) literacy and encourage more women into these national future-proofing disciplines.

The Coalition today announced $31.2 million for internships and post-school career advice to help support more women and girls to choose STEM careers.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said helping women to find their path in a STEM career was vital to realising the potential of Australian students.

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Education enhances employability in a changing economy: new report

22 June 2016    |     A new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) report released today confirms the important role that education plays in preparing people for the workforce and ensuring skills for ongoing employment and lifelong learning.

The ABS update on Qualifications and Work in Australia finds 9.4 million Australians aged 15-64 years had a qualification in vocational or university education in 2015, up from 8.7 million in 2014.

The data confirms that a university education is good for employability, with more than three in four people with a post-school qualification employed (82 per cent) – compared to 61 per cent of those without a post-school qualification.

The ABS figures also underscore the need in a rapidly changing economy for higher education to prepare people for career shifts and equip them with broad skills that can be deployed in a wide range of jobs.

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Pledges to restore university research funding welcome

18 June 2016    |   Labor’s commitment … to restore university research funding acknowledges the importance of university research to Australia’s future national prosperity.

The sector’s pre-election policy statement Keep it Clever, made the case that a properly funded university research system was an essential prerequisite for Australia making a successful transition to an economy built on innovation, ideas and ingenuity.

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Strong tertiary sector the engine room of Australia’s prosperity

Opinion piece by Chief Executive Belinda Robinson, published in The Australian on 1 June 2016

Entwined in every successful global economy is a strong university system. This is no accident.

The work of universities creates wealth for nations because they build human capital and push the boundaries of knowledge that drives innovation and human ­advancement. Smart countries know this.

In a report released late last year, Deloitte Access Economics pointed out that productivity gains generated by university ­research had delivered economic benefits to Australia worth a third of the growth in average living standards over the past 30 years.

More recent modelling by ­Cadence Economics found that without the entry of new univer­sity graduates into the Australian economy, the growth rate in jobs for people without a university ­degree would have been zero over the past eight years.

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Universities are essential to economic transition

Address to the FUTUREPROOF 2016 conference by Professor Barney Glover Chair, Universities Australia

16 May 2016    |     I must say we are in a very different place than we were three years ago.

During the 2013 election campaign, I think it is fair to say that neither side of politics made higher education, nor for that matter research, a particularly prominent issue. Each of them went to that poll with relatively modest detail in their policy platforms.

And yet, during the last parliamentary term, we witnessed perhaps the greatest divergence for quite some time in the views of the two major parties on their policy objectives for higher education.

Having withdrawn their plans for the full deregulation of student fees in the recent Budget, the Coalition has now floated a series of policy options for consultation. However, cuts of $2.5 billion remain in the Budget papers from 2018 onwards.

Labor, meanwhile, is heading to this election with the most detailed higher education policy framework produced by an Opposition in quite a while. Despite the detail, there are still elements of their position that warrant discussion. The sector well remembers that Labor in Government also made sizeable cuts. Their current policy, however, pledges an increase on current funding levels.

Whatever the election outcome, Universities Australia will test proposed shifts from current policy settings against the major policy statement we launched late last year – Keep It Clever. It called for sustainable and sustained public investment in universities, measures to lift industry-research collaboration, and policies that will enable us to help Australia meet the workforce needs of the future.

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Universities Australia welcomes Watt Review response

6 May 2016    |     Universities Australia welcomes the commitment today by the Minister for Education and Training, Senator the Hon Simon Birmingham to address all 28 recommendations from the Review of Research Policy and Funding Arrangements, led by Dr Ian Watt AO.

Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the implementation of several major recommendations was already underway in a swift but considered manner.

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Abolition of Office for Learning and Teaching a loss

4 May 2016    |     The Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT) which delivers incentives to improve teaching excellence and innovation has been abolished in the 2016-17 Budget.

Universities Australia’s Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said the decision to abolish the OLT would dismay many in the sector.

“The OLT was supported by a small amount of funding but was making a big difference for teachers and students, including projects to improve teaching excellence and retention of students,” Ms Robinson said.

The scrapping of the OLT delivers Budget savings of $18 million and this is on top of a $16 million cut made in the 2015-16 Budget.

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Budget cuts to university equity programme deeply disappointing

Universities Australia has criticised the 2016-17 Federal Budget’s cuts to the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Programme (HEPPP) which assists universities to support students from disadvantaged backgrounds to complete degrees.

The Budget cuts $152 million from the HEPPP which includes projects such as improving numeracy skills, providing work-integrated learning and mentoring to lift student retention rates.

Chief Executive Belinda Robinson said that all Australians with the ability to do so should have the opportunity to undertake life-changing higher education.

“Improving equity in higher education is not only fair, but an essential platform for building the diverse, skilled workforce of the future”, she said.

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Uni options paper key to resolving policy tug-of-war

3 May 2016    |     An options paper on alternatives to full fee deregulation, a reduction in the size of funding cuts and a 12 month delay to the introduction of higher education changes has softened the blow to universities braced for substantial funding cuts.

However cuts worth a combined $180 million to university programs that support disadvantaged students and teaching excellence are fresh hits.

In a welcome move in tonight’s Budget, the Turnbull Government has delayed the introduction of the proposed 20 per cent cut to 1 January 2018, and dropped the $1.2 billion efficiency dividend on legislated programs.

In scrapping previous plans to fully deregulate student fees, the Government has also released an options paper on alternative policy changes to secure a financially sustainable higher education system.

 

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Uni investment is a tie breaker

Opinion piece by Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson originally published in The Australian on 22 April 2016.

There is a scene in the movie Match Point when the tennis ball quivers for millisecond over the net. It could go either way – to win or lose the game. It’s a metaphor for a turning point in the life of the main character, a tennis pro. And it is an apt image for our time and our place.

Australia is at a turning point. The economy is in transition and there are a number of balls in the air. Our future could go either way – ahead to a shining future, with knowledge-based high value jobs, start-ups and new industries or stuck in the slow lane.

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