April 11, 2023

Australian Universities Accord – IRU Submission

Executive Summary 

The Innovative Research Universities (IRU) warmly welcomes the Review of Australia’s Higher Education System as the first step towards a new Australian Universities Accord. 

The Universities Accord discussion paper released in February 2023 poses important questions about the future of the higher education system. We agree that the central purpose of the Accord should be to maximise alignment between the higher education system and national needs in the decades ahead. We submit that the Accord should focus on targeted evidence-based reforms to ensure that Australia’s public university system can deliver the maximum public value. 

Through successive waves of policy reform and investment, the Australian university system has expanded and developed an international reputation for quality and impact. The system is not broken, however if current trends continue, it will become less diverse and less representative of the community. The Accord is a critical opportunity to set the system up for the decades ahead, to better serve the Australian people. Evidence shows that investing in education and research now will deliver significant economic returns as well as significant social benefits, including reduced inequality, improved social cohesion and wellbeing, and reduced reliance on government support. 

In line with our IRU Strategy and our initial response on the Accord Terms of Reference, we focus in our submission on five key areas for reform. Specific recommendations under each of these five priorities are summarised on the following pages. 

The Accord should focus on delivering: 

1. A more equitable higher education system, to improve social cohesion and provide opportunity for all. 

2. A more balanced research system, to deliver the sovereign capabilities that Australia will need for the future and to maximise the translation of knowledge for the public good. 

3. Indigenous self-determination, with higher education and research playing a central role in building community capacity and supporting the next generation of Indigenous leaders. 

4. A confident approach to engagement with the nations of the Indo-Pacific, strengthened through long-term education and research partnerships. 

5. A system that fosters innovation and diversity, with each university focusing on its distinct mission and community. 

We look forward to working closely with the Panel and Australian Government throughout 2023 to contribute to an Accord that will deliver a more equitable and innovative future for all Australians. 

Read the full submission here.