University of Melbourne response to the Universities Accord Interim Report

The university has responded to the Universities Accord Interim Report.

The University of Melbourne has provided a written submission in response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report that was released on 19 July 2023.

The following statement can be attributed to the University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Duncan Maskell:

“The Australian Universities Accord Interim Report has identified several areas for Australia’s higher education sector to focus on around Access, Quality and Funding.

“The current tertiary education system has delivered many achievements to be proud of, but it is not set up to ensure that Australia has the system it needs for the next few decades.

“If we are to achieve serious reform, we must begin with a first-principles consideration of what Australia needs from its tertiary education system and re-design it accordingly.

“The higher education system needs to deliver a broad spectrum of educational options and outcomes to a larger, more diverse cohort of students who have widely diverse motivations for obtaining a tertiary education.

“Australia needs to invest in a sustainable Research system that delivers productivity, resilience and prosperity to the nation, and that will position Australia at the leading edge of global knowledge creation. Educating students in the context of this leading research is the best way to help to form mature minds enabling them to be agile and resilient in responding to the challenges of the future.

“Australia’s tertiary institutions must also re-commit to their social engagement obligations, facilitating and contributing to public discussion and enriching communities through intellectual and cultural engagement.

“Underpinning the reforms should be a move away from a system of 42 teaching and research universities towards a single ecosystem that includes teaching-intensive and research-intensive institutions, alongside technical and vocational training institutions as well as senior high school academies.

“A significant weakness of the current higher education system is its disconnected, competitive nature. A redesigned higher education system must put greater emphasis on networks of collaboration and mutual enrichment across different types of institution.

“Mutually enriching networks among all elements of this ecosystem would facilitate the creation of student-centred education pathways. Networks would allow best practice, access to cutting-edge research and ideas, and secondment and further training opportunities to flow across the sector.

“We must ensure students are at the heart of our education system, empowered to direct their own choices to access education when, where and how they need it and want it.

“Central to a new vision for higher education must be proper recognition of the extreme importance of higher education to the nation’s future, and a resolve to resource it appropriately.  Current levels of under-resourcing of higher education and research will seriously impede the nation’s future potential and must be addressed if these reforms are to be successful.

“The suggested scheme for a tax on international student fees will simply redistribute existing resources inefficiently. This will lead to more resources being wasted on unnecessary administration, new sources of discord will be created, and ultimately, Australia’s international reputation will be undermined.

“Lifting the public contribution, re-thinking student contributions, and considering an appropriate contribution from business, should be integral to designing a new fit-for-purpose higher education system that will generate Australia’s bright future.”

The executive summary and submission is available here.