UA signs on to the Accord

“Australia’s universities exist to serve our entire nation and everyone who calls it home,” the new president of Universities Australia, David Lloyd told the National Press Club yesterday.

Professor Lloyd included UA’s standard MO, with complaints about underfunding of research, but he made his case in the context that Prime Minister Albanese has set; that the pandemic shock – when Australia was at the end of global supply lines for new treatments – left the nation exposed. 

“The impact and value of sovereign research and development is immeasurable, and no nation can claim to be thoroughly successful without it,” Professor Lloyd said.

He pointed to the government funding the “rebuilding of Australia’s once great manufacturing industry” adding that national challenges won’t be met, without universities research and development and their education of skilled workers.

But Professor Lloyd also made it plain that UA is up for fundamental aspects of the transformation of tertiary education, as proposed in the Interim report from Mary O’Kane and her Accord colleagues.  

For a start, he signalled support for a new approach to qualifications and learning content, saying skills shortage, “requires a much shorter turning circle than the provision of additional traditional three-year degree programmes” including rethinking “how we upskill, reskill, and deliver units of education to learners in a manner commensurate with life-long learning.” 

Plus he spoke up for vocational education – which the government is keen on, at least when it happens at TAFE.  

“Some within universities look down on vocational education and position it as somehow lesser,” Professor Lloyd said, rejecting the notion of unequal status between the sectors.

Professor Lloyd also acknowledged all universities need not be funded to do the same things.

“Thinking and embracing the value of the diversity of Australian higher education as a system in and of itself, a system of unique and differentiated organisations, rather than as a sector with assumed equivalence and homogeneity could well be a starting point for its further improvement,” he said.

But while, “universities will and must work harder to become better and more agile partners …. this is no one way street,” Professor Lloyd added.

“Corrosive policy oscillation and accompanying funding uncertainty has made any kind of sustained strategic planning … almost impossible.”

In particular, he pointed to research funding, where “the Accord process could yet do more.”  

But rather than anything on “more.” Professor Lloyd called for the Labor Party to retain the previous national platform target of 3 per cent of GDP on research in its new national platform.

And he also criticised the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates package, (“a policy intervention positioned as a reform“) without detailing what needs be done, beyond, “a funding model that is fairer for students and which sustainably provides the resources needed to educate the next generation.”

This was a speech that signalled Universities Australia could live with a tertiary education system where HE and VET cooperate closely,  that is inherent in the Accord Interim Report. It is clear that the price of support will be more funding for research than is now proposed – which is effectively nothing.



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