The University of Melbourne has issued a written response to the Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, which was published on July 19, 2023. In the response, the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Duncan Maskell, highlighted several key points related to the higher education sector in Australia.
Professor Maskell emphasized the need for comprehensive reform in the tertiary education system, focusing on access, quality, and funding. He argued that the current system has its merits but is not designed to meet Australia’s needs for the coming decades. To achieve meaningful reform, he suggested a first-principles examination of what Australia requires from its tertiary education system and a subsequent redesign to align with those needs.
The response called for a higher education system capable of offering diverse educational options to a broader and more varied student population with distinct motivations for pursuing tertiary education. It also stressed the importance of investing in a sustainable research system that contributes to national productivity and resilience while positioning Australia as a leader in global knowledge creation.
Professor Maskell highlighted the role of universities in social engagement, public discourse, and community enrichment. He advocated moving away from a competitive and disconnected system of 42 universities to a more integrated ecosystem encompassing teaching-intensive, research-intensive, vocational training, and high school academies.
Collaborative networks among different types of institutions were deemed essential for creating student-centric education pathways fostering the sharing of best practices, research access, and training opportunities across the sector.
Finally, the response emphasized the need for proper recognition of higher education’s importance to Australia’s future and adequate resourcing to support the proposed reforms. It criticized a suggested tax on international student fees as inefficient and proposed alternatives such as increasing public contributions, reevaluating student contributions, and considering contributions from businesses to create a fit-for-purpose higher education system.
Overall, the University of Melbourne’s response underscores the significance of comprehensive reform and investment in the higher education sector to secure Australia’s future potential.