_MG_0165 RET

Australia has a lot to be proud of in our universities…

Posted 27th Feb 2013

Universities Australia thinks that a smarter country means a better country. But right now, there’s a big difference between what our Universities need and what they’re actually getting. To help you see the whole picture, we’ve provided some cold hard facts on both our high potential and our low funding:

Australia has a lot to be proud of in our universities…

  • Australia has the third highest number of universities in the global top 100 (2012 Academic Ranking of World Universities)
  • Seven of Australia’s 39 universities are ranked in the world’s top 100 universities (QS 2012 World University Rankings)
  • Australia’s university system is ranked 8th globally, ahead of the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan (Universitas 21 2012)
  • Australia is ranked as the fourth most efficient nation in producing graduates and the fifth most in undertaking research
  • Australia has produced 12 Nobel prize laureates
  • Australian university graduates contribute over $170 billion per year in wages to our economy
  • University graduates comprise around ¼ of the population but generate almost 1/3 of Australia’s wages
  • Universities employ over 100,000 staff
  • Every day over 1 billion people around the world rely on Australian discoveries and innovations to make their lives, and the lives of others, better:
    • The Bionic Ear, ultrasound, Black Box Flight Recorders, humidicribs, vaccines for cervical cancer and the flu and WiFi are just some of the innovations Australia can be proud of.
  • International education has risen to be a $15 billion per annum industry for Australia, the largest export earner after resources
  • 36.8% of 25-34 year olds have bachelor degree or above
  • In 2011, over 1 million students were enrolled to study at an Australian University
  • The average university graduate earns around $1 million more than someone who has completed year 12 or less who doesn’t pursue any other qualifications over the course of their careers. This represents about $400,000 in extra income taxes
  • Australia’s 39 universities foster more than 7100 formal research and collaboration links with overseas institutions, building strong and positive international networks
  • A quarter of Australian universities are performing above the world standard for research, including four performing at well above world standard according to the results of the latest Excellence in Research Australia rankings 2012.

But we risk falling behind…

  • Our university public investment levels (as a percentage of GDP) rank 25th out of 29 advanced economies and is well below the OECD average.
  • Between 1995 and 2009, OECD countries on average grew their real public investment in tertiary education by 62 per cent. By contrast, Australia only grew its investment by 17 per cent, although there has been some increase recently.
  • Government report after Government report has found that Australian universities are underfunded including: The Denise Bradley Review of Australian Higher Education and the Jane Lomax- Smith review of University Base Funding.

Our competitors are making university investment a high priority…

  • Developing countries such as China, India and Brazil are placing innovation high on their policy agenda
  • China’s spending on research and development has grown by 20 per cent per year since 1999 in pursuit of its goal of spending 2.5 per cent of GDP on research and development in 2020
    • China spent more than $130 Billion in 2006
    • China’s expenditure on research and development is increasing as a proportion of GDP each year (GDP growth in China is also rapidly increasing)
  • The number of Chinese universities in the top 500 almost tripled from eight in 2005 to 23 in 2011 (Academic Ranking of World Universities, 2011)
  • India is producing some 2.5 million science and engineering graduates each year. India also leads the world in research and development tax generosity by allowing a 200% super deduction for research and development spending.
  • In 1996, Singapore invested 1.37% of GDP in research and development. By 2007 this had reached 2.61% of GDP. The number of scientific publications has grown from 2,620 in 1996 to 8,506 in 2008, almost half of which were co-authored internationally.
  • Brazil, in line with its aspiration to be a ‘natural knowledge economy’, building on its natural and environmental resources, is working to increase research spending to 2.5% of GDP by 2022
  • The number of researchers in the manufacturing and service sectors in Australia (3.1 per 1000 employed in industry, 2009) was less than a third of the average figure for the four Scandinavian countries (10.0) and the United States (10.5)
  • Latin America has been a fast mover in world science with the number of papers growing by 147 per cent since 1995, way ahead of total world growth of 39 per cent.


The time for investment is now…

  • Increased Government investment in university education is critical to Australia innovating, lifting productivity, remaining internationally competitive
  • Government investments in university education produce high returns, estimated to be 13 per cent to 14 per cent per annum in real terms.
  • Demand for higher-level skills will substantially increase over the next decade, with the growth of high-skilled jobs expected to occur at around 160 per cent of the rate of low-skilled jobs.
  • By 2025, industry demand for post-school qualifications will increase from 60 per cent to between 65 and 75 per cent, depending on the nature and growth of the economy
  • Roughly a third of our workforce will require a Bachelor’s degree or higher in the coming years.


  1. The Australian Government needs to resource our Universities to keep Australian Business competative in a global market, Education should be seen as an investment and not a cost, Investment in Education has a multiplier effect in our economy, more skilled nation more successful nation !! Also do not forget the value added when providing an Education framwework that is conducive to Australia's Indigenous peoples, this strategy can be duplicated to other Indigneous peoples of the world, given Australia's cross-cultural environment and acceptance of a multi-cultural society we have a comparative advantage to other nations.

  2. Whilst the number of Universities in Australia has grown significantly, and those leaving with Degrees is impressive, my 27 years in the system tends to indicate that all is not well. Employers are complaining that too many graduates have poor English skills, and many lack usable quantitative and qualitative attributes. Clearly this shows that there has been a trend in the past 26 years to push more and more people through the Australian University system by lowering the standards required to graduate. Back in the 1960s the top 5% of students who matriculated gained a University place, now it is closer to 70%. Does that mean that Australians have become smarter by a factor of 1,400%, or have we just lowered the standards so far that students who effectively fail at University studies are granted a degree so that Universities and the Government can brag of their psuedo-success? My own experience showed that a higher percentage of students cheated to obtain their degrees, and staff were forced to ignore these cases under the threat of dismissal. The cheating has taken the form of plagiarism, hiring others to sit exams under a false name, bribing academics, and selling their bodies for better grades. The numbers may look great, but the reality is even more deplorable when one considers the consequences of the present system - doctors incapable of proper medical practice, engineers designing buildings which collapse, accountants who can't add up, lawyers who lack case knowledge etc. Furthermore we should not put the responsibility onto the politicians to fix the problems, as it their inaction and lack of skills which has created the problem in the first place.

  3. Concern of many in both Australia and the UK is if government wants increasing higher education participation rates, why are there no direct public targetting of demand areas? One understands STEM, health and education are indirectly, but what if too many candidates are studying 'soft' courses which makes it difficult to find employment and pay off fees?


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