Universities must rebuild their research skills while creating jobs

“The first year (2020) was not as bad as expected as most of the internationals arrived here before the borders closed. This year, the impact was mitigated by additional government funding of $ 1 billion. But next year you get the pipeline effect – people who should have been in first year this year won’t be second year in 2022, ”he says.

It will take time to rebuild what we lost during the pandemic, says Andrew Norton of ANU. Attila Caesar

“Even if we get a very good starting cohort [of international students] Next year, it will take time to reconstruct the numbers and the profits on them, which pays for much of the research in Australia. “

While the decline in research results is immediately evident, it will take three to five years for the downward movement to manifest itself in key quality metrics. Once that is done, it will be difficult to reverse quickly. Research is not a faucet that you can turn on on a whim.

The extent to which this will impact Australia’s global position in research excellence will depend on the extent of cuts to other countries’ research agendas.

“Rankings are purely relative, so this will be an interesting dynamic,” Norton says.

The blow to the funding of university research will be felt everywhere. Most basic research takes place in Australian universities and its contribution to gross domestic product is not negligible. Every dollar invested in higher education research and development is tied to a return to GDP of $ 5, according to estimates by Deloitte Access Economics.

Published research still trumps commercialization as a measure of excellence, but in slightly more mature markets such as the UK, the University of Oxford is actively increasing the number of start-ups it has. created.

Many see the continued lack of collaboration between academia and industry, leading to better commercialization results, as a missed opportunity.

“We know that Australian universities are undertaking world-class research in a number of areas, but for the full value of this research to be unlocked, we need a stronger foundation for its translation in industry, in the economy, ”Deloitte Access Economics, education manager, Lachlan Sourire, said.

Australia ranked last in the OECD for business collaboration on innovation with higher education or public institutions in 2016-2017, just 1.6% compared to the OECD average of 14%.

“There’s not much to suggest that things have changed significantly since then,” says Smirl.

“Neither universities nor the private capital market face the incentives necessary to financially manage promising projects throughout the proof-of-scale stage, but we know this is essential,” he said. declared.

Smirl says efforts to improve the commercialization of research will struggle without reviewing incentives for researchers to translate – by incorporating a framework of impact and engagement into measures of research quality Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) and incorporating measures of industry innovation and engagement into global ranking systems.

Murdoch University Acting Vice-Chancellor Jane den Hollander argues that the measure of success of modern universities is much broader than research.

For teachers, excellence comes in the form of satisfied students who believe their education was worth it and who have demonstrable learned skills of which they are proud.

Norton says the plethora of student satisfaction surveys have made a difference in this regard, but there is still work to be done on the education side.

Regarding the definition of government excellence, den Hollander says the key lies in employable graduates who finish within the allotted time. Likewise, parents and guardians expect a college education to lead to a well-paying career and to equip their child with a skill set to last a lifetime.

“Higher education is about lifelong employability these days,” says den Hollander.

“The time was, when I was a girl it was all about learning about the world. The big change now is to focus on a post graduation job and then on developing lifelong skills to keep pace with our artificial intelligence-based, human-powered systems and jobs. technology, ”she says.

Although not mutually exclusive, the concepts of excellence and added value have different drivers in the context of universities, Norton explains.

“For the average person, meeting needs is more important than excellence in research,” he says.

Norton sees an increased risk in college degrees failing to secure better paying jobs for young Australians.

“Most people who go to college are still going for a better life trajectory. But a growing proportion of them haven’t graduated or don’t have a better job than they could have obtained with their grade 12 diploma, ”says Norton.

“This is partly because the number of graduates has increased more than the number of suitable jobs, but also because when you enter a system of mass higher education, where more than 40% of a cohort go to college, you have a longer tail of people who are not so academically strong and who struggle to exploit the benefits of the higher education system.


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Paul N. Strickland