Dan Tehan calls on universities to work with him to expand the system. “It’s only through proper and meaningful engagement that we will get things done”
The Education Minister has called on universities to partner with him to put teaching and research at the centre of national policy.
“Every review, every piece of work which is being done currently is being led by the sector. And I want to make sure that continues because if we can build that partnership I believe we will be able to make the necessary reforms that we need to set higher education for the 2020s” Dan Tehan told a Victoria U seminar Friday.
Speaking directly to vice chancellors at the event, hosted by VU’s Peter Dawkins, the minister said, “higher education sector has to be central to what we are going to do to lift productivity and generate employment in this country and that is our challenge.”
Mr Tehan acknowledged the need for increased undergraduate places, as numbers of 18-24 year olds increase to a peak in 2024. “We have to make sure that our higher education system will be there to deal with, to cope with, and to educate, that increased cohort of young Australians.
“We know that the higher education sector is absolutely going to be instrumental – over 50 per cent of the new jobs that are going to be created in this nation require a degree qualification.”
Mr Tehan also said explaining to government and community the core role universities would play in driving productivity growth was the way to secure support. Referring to research he has commissioned that estimates the higher education sector can expand the economy by $3.2bn by 2030, the minister added, “if I can put a compelling case to my colleagues that we are absolutely instrumental in driving productivity in this nation for the next decade then I think that we can get the support that we need to grow the sector.”
He also called for more work to commercialise research and to increase community awareness. “We have the best researchers in the world … yet when it comes to how the general population understands that we have a significant amount of work to do.”
Mr Tehan added he will establish a small group of vice chancellors and business leaders to work on “greater linkages between universities and industry research and employment.”
“I don’t see this as an issue for the university sector, which keeps continually reaching out,” he said.
If these initiatives are framed as being a partnership, “about improving national prosperity”, “then we can get the right outcomes, we can reshape the higher education architecture, we can make sure the sector continues to grow and we can make sure that especially when it comes to business, commercialisation and around the research piece that we can deliver in the HE sector in the next decade.”