The Business Council of Australia today challenged critics of proposed reforms to Australia’s universities to offer viable alternatives and called for united support of the reform package.
BCA President, Dr John Schubert, said while the considerable debate on the package in recent weeks was necessary, business had yet to hear any credible alternatives in response to what were fundamental challenges facing Australia’s univerisities.
“These are far-reaching reforms and absolutely necessary for the long-term sustainability in the higher education sector,” Dr Schubert said.
“Without them, Australia’s education system and our capacity to be world leader in knowledge, research and innovation will flounder.
“Business welcomes the debate on the package, but is concerned with the lack of alternatives being promoted by those opposing the package in part or in whole.”
Dr Schubert said any reform package should be judged on the basis of sustainability of funding, the rewarding of excellence, flexibility, fairness and increasing the value to Australia of university-led innovation and research.
“Most people agree that change is overdue,” he said.
“Yet, in all the comment and criticism to date, nothing has been suggested in response or opposition to the package that meets these fundamental principles”.
“Only by meeting these principals can Australia’s universities deliver the world-class educational and research outcomes required by students, the community and the Australian economy.”
Dr Schubert said the BCA was particularly concerned with calls not to tie increased funding to improvements in the governance and administration of universities.
“This a significant sector of Australia’s economy, accounting for billions in government spending.
“The community has a right to expect this investment to be allocated and spent in the most accountable way, rather than frittered away on outdated or inefficient practices.”
Dr Schubert said the future success of the economy and Australia’s university sector were directly tied.
“We live and compete increasingly in a knowledge economy. Universities are the focus of our ability to compete effectively in this world.
“If we don’t get these reforms right or they are stymied, the cost to Australia is likely to be immense.”