University Accord recommends big changes for Australian universities

Jarrod Brown
Jarrod Brown

A new investigation into Australia’s higher education system says universities must undergo “bold, long term change” in order to prepare students for the coming challenges.

The Australian Universities Accord Interim Report, announced today by Federal Education Minister Jason Clare at the National Press Club in Canberra, aims to optimise the nation’s tertiary education by enhancing accessibility, improving governance and bridging education gaps.

This latest review predicts that 55 per cent of the workforce will need university degrees in the next 25 years, with many of those Australians residing in the outer suburbs of our major cities and regional centres.

“This report makes it clear that more and more jobs will require a university qualification in the future,” said Minister Clare. 

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“That means we are going to need more people to get those qualifications. More young people getting degrees and more people in the workforce up-skilling and re-skilling.”

To meet those expectations, the report recommends sweeping changes across the higher education sector in an effort to improve enrolments from First Nations people, lower socio-economic groups and those from rural, remote and outer-suburban communities.

“At the moment, almost one in two Australians in their late 20s have a university degree. But not everywhere,” said Minister Clare.

“Only 15 per cent of young people from poor families have a university degree. And only 18 per cent of young people in the regions do.

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“This report makes it clear that this has to change. The changes happening in our economy right now means this has to change.”

RELATED: Is The Australian Universities Accord Report The Key To Saving Humanities Degrees?

According to the minister, the Federal Government is committed to acting on all five of the immediate actions identified within the interim report.

This will include establishing up to 20 additional Regional University Study Hubs, extending the higher education continuity guarantee for another two years and improving demand-driven funding for Indigenous students.

The government will also abolish the controversial 50 per cent pass rule, introduced as part of the Job-ready Graduates Scheme by the Morrison government, which has had a disproportionately negative impact on students from regional and poor backgrounds. 

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Minister Clare said the government will work with its state and territory counterparts to improve university governance, focusing on university governing bodies having more people with expertise in the business of universities, as well as increasing student and staff safety. 

In addition to these immediate actions, the report identifies more than 70 policy ideas the Accord Panel is considering including in their final report later this year.

“We have heard, and continue to hear, a lot about the strengths and weaknesses of higher education in Australia,” said Chair of the Australian Universities Accord Panel, Professor Mary O’Kane AC

“This is vitally important to understand how we can address future challenges and opportunities faced by the sector. A strong and fair Australia needs the skills, new knowledge and socio-economic outcomes that higher education provides.”

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Jarrod Brown combines his background in journalism, copywriting and digital marketing with a lifelong passion for storytelling. Jarrod established his journalism career working on the education news and information site The Bursar. He lives on the Sunshine Coast - usually found glued to the deck of a surfboard.