Missing the perfect moment for investment into Australia’s future prosperity

3 April 2019

The Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) commends the Government on its forecast $7.1 billion surplus but is disappointed that Government did not take this unique opportunity to invest in the foundations of Australia’s future prosperity, including the innovation and higher education sectors.

ATN Chair and UTS Vice Chancellor Professor Attila Brungs says, “universities are the largest non-resource sector contributor to the Australian economy and a global success story, but more importantly a foundation required to improve the well-being of Australians and provide a positive future for society.”

“Everyday we see the positive impact of universities whether it be through graduates working as our nation’s teachers, health professionals or engineers or our researchers finding breakthroughs to make society a better place,” says Professor Brungs.

“Universities are job creators and for every thousand university graduates who enter the Australian workforce, 120 new jobs are created for people without university degrees.

“The innovation, research and impact of universities, was demonstrated to be at world leading levels in recently published Federal Government benchmarking. This was built by the commitment and investment of past governments. The higher education sector is transforming itself to support society through a lifetime of learning to adapt and thrive in the new realities of the workplace. These activities are critical to the wellbeing and prosperity of all Australians and requires consistent investment.”

The ATN highlights that the Government has cut universities by $2.1 billion over the last 18 months – making it harder for students from diverse backgrounds to attend university. Not only has this budget failed to reverse any of the cuts, it is disappointing that it delivers limited new support to pivotal pillars of Australian society – education and innovation.

“The ATN has long advocated that Australia should have a sustainable, world-class higher education system that remains affordable and accessible to all who are eligible, regardless of background or circumstance,” says Professor Brungs.

“Universities have the power to transform lives, open up new opportunities and empower people with the knowledge and skills to contribute positively to their community.”

The ATN welcomes programs to increase accessibility and support for the Indigenous community.

The ATN also welcomes the additional support for women in STEM and commends the Government for continuing the Science in Australia Gender Equity (SAGE) initiative, allowing higher education providers to continue to improve their policies and practices for gender equity.

The ATN has long advocated for, and is supportive of, the Government’s commitment to implementing a tertiary wide unique student identifier and centralised repository for students’ education and training records.

“In a time where lifelong learning is the focal solution to meet the challenges of the future workforce, it is important that students are able to track and see their diverse set of qualifications regardless of whether this training occurred at university or in the vocational sector,” says Professor Brungs.

“An appropriately resourced university sector is a critical path to jobs growth, economic growth and diversity and a more productive and innovative society.”

The ATN looks forward to working with the Federal Government to ensure the tertiary sector continues to nurture Australia’s skilled future workforce and maintain prosperity in Australia’s economy.