Last week, the Universities Accord interim report was released. In November 2022, Education Minister Jason Clare appointed a panel to conduct a review to drive lasting reform in Australia’s higher education system, to deliver a system that meets the current and future needs of the nation, and targets to achieve this.
The Australian Institute of Physics, the professional body representing Australian physicists, considers this interim report a missed opportunity to recommend the real changes that are needed to secure Australia’s future. We hope the final report will go further.
The report includes several potential proposals including significantly increasing immediate investment in the Australian Research Council, increasing PhD stipend rate, and moving NCRIS to sustainable ongoing funding. The AIP would like to see these proposals elevated to priority actions in the final report.
However, the failure to recommend a visionary scale-up of Australia’s research sector, to drive stronger job creation, is a significant missed opportunity. Only with stronger investment in research can science address the challenges of the future. This is particularly concerning in light of the latest official data (published in May 2023) that shows that Australian Government investment in R&D has plummeted to its lowest level since 1978.
We share the view of Science & Technology Australia president Professor Mark Hutchinson that “The final report should enshrine an ambitious target for Australia’s R&D investment – mirroring the 3% of GDP target the Australian Labor Party promised the Australian people before the last election – and recommend a plan and timetable to achieve it.”