The Australian Universities Accord offers a unique opportunity to reshape the higher education sector

25 February 2024

The Business Council says the Australian Universities Accord, released today, offers a unique opportunity to reshape the higher education sector into one that is agile and responsive to industry and which stands ready to meet the future skill needs of students, but the proposed levy will require further and close consultation with industry and the education sector. 

Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Bran Black said he welcomes the diverse range of ideas and analysis contained in the Australian Universities Accord final report including many proposed by the business community.

“If we are to take advantage of the jobs of the future, continue to drive long-term prosperity and turn around our failing productivity rates, we need a higher education sector that is agile and responsive to what our skills gaps are now and will be in the future,” Mr Black said.   

“The BCA is very supportive of the report's emphasis on skills - we have long called for job-ready graduates who have the targeted and practical skillsets businesses need when they leave the tertiary sector. 

“The strong emphasis on work-integrated learning and placements is also welcome, as is the focus on lifelong learning, with upskilling and reskilling - prioritising student mobility between tertiary and vocational sectors - allowing students flexibility and scope to meet industry's evolving skills needs with modular, stackable skills. 

“The new Tertiary Education Commission will play a key role in breaking down the structural, governance and bureaucratic silos between sectors, and the business community looks forward to supporting the Commission in implementing this reform.”

Mr Black said the Business Council’s submission to the Accord called for a Research Investor Forum and a National Skills Passport as well as a national approach to the recognition of prior learning, which has acted as an impediment for recognising skills. 

“We are pleased key BCA recommendations have been adopted by the Accord. A national approach to the recognition of prior learning and a National Skills Passport will go a long way towards addressing our critical skills shortage.

“The Research Investor Forum will be fundamental in bringing industry and universities together as they work to identify and solve our nation's greatest challenges.

"We're very pleased to see the emphasis on quality careers advice, which we know can make such a decisive difference to the quality of decision making for young people and those looking to change careers, and which can present real problems if done poorly. 

"We're also pleased to see the report's recognition of the critical role international education plays in driving Australia's economy - it's one of our top exports, contributing almost $30 billion to our economy in 2022 and supporting around 250,000 jobs, so it's important we continue to back it in."

The BCA notes the report’s suggestion that a Higher Education Future Fund be established. 

“We need to encourage more business engagement with universities to turn the best research ideas into reality - creating new markets, new jobs and new opportunities - and we know levies can hinder partnership and investment and in this case potentially act as a deterrent for universities trying to innovate and broaden their funding sources,” Mr Black said. 

“We look forward to further consultation on how this Future Fund could work. It will be essential that if it is established, it does not deter business engagement or philanthropic support for universities.”

Mr Black said the BCA’s most recent report, Seize The Moment, outlined the need for Australia to create core value in everything we do by working smarter not harder, investing in more efficient technologies and strengthening our existing industries. 

“The tertiary and vocational sectors are crucial to meeting our economic needs. Unleashing the skills and capabilities of Australians is critical to becoming a magnet for investment, talent and ideas and to positioning Australia at the forefront of cutting-edge development and the application of world-class technologies,” Mr Black said. 

Mr Black acknowledged the hard work and focus of the Minister, his departmental and office team, Professor Mary O'Kane and the Accord Panel members in the preparation of this important contribution to Australia's policy landscape, and confirmed the business community stands ready to do its bit to bring the report's ambitions to life. 

"Vision without delivery is always just a hallucination, and so now that the hard work of implementation is starting, we look forward to working with the Minister and the Accord team to turn this vision into reality," Mr Black said. 


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