Vice-Chancellor outlines need for education reform

30 July 2014

Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Young AO has outlined the need to reform higher education funding, in a nationally-televised speech at the National Press Club in Canberra.

Professor Young, who is Chair of Australia’s Group of Eight universities, said the decisions being made about deregulation could help make Australian education amongst the best in the world.

In his speech, titled Imagining an Australia built on the brilliance of our people, he said Australia was yet to realise its full potential as a world leader in higher education and research.

“Hard analysis shows that our rhetoric is better than our performance. Australian higher education is not bad but it is not yet brilliant,” Professor Young said.

“To build an education system that is brilliant, we have to stop funding universities the same way regardless of how they teach. We have to stop the endless per-student funding cuts to higher education.

“We have created a perverse incentive that rewards universities for enrolling as many students as possible and teaching them as cheaply as possible. That’s what our current system does.”

Professor Young said deregulation would enable universities to differentiate and play to their strengths, providing real options and real choice for students.

He also urged government and business to invest more in research.

“Future wealth will be built on innovation, science and technology. We need to prepare for that future,” he said.

“We need to enable ourselves to be brilliant. Our choice is to either create or consume knowledge.

“If we choose not to be a creator of knowledge we will get left behind. The gap between curiosity driven discovery and applied outcomes is now very short and very fast.”

Professor Young said deregulation was not the whole answer to the sector’s future, and students could not carry the full burden.

“Government investment in truly world-class research is required,” he said.

“Deregulation, however, is a game-changer and a building block to making our universities brilliant.

“On behalf of the Group of Eight, I urge our Senators to give universities the freedom to be brilliant.”

A full copy of Professor Young’s speech is available on the Vice-Chancellor’s blog.