Universities Australia calls for a united front on new deal with government

“If we speak in a unified and coordinated way, individual voices will not drown us out,” says UA chief, Catriona Jackson

The Universities Accord negotiation, which starts next month is the first opportunity since the Bradley Review of 2008 for universities “to work with government to shape our future.” “We have in front of us a clean slate,” Ms Jackson will tell the Australian Council of Deans of Science this morning.

Her speech signals that UA is keen indeed to work with Education Minister Jason Clare. And Ms Jackson makes clear UA understands that discord among the HE community will not serve its interests.

“Universities are unique in nature. What works in metropolitan areas isn’t necessarily what’s best in the regions. … Through this process we may find that compromises need to be made for the greater good of our sector and out nation,” her prepared text states.

In an apparent attempt to reduce criticism of what is expected to be little new money for HE in tomorrow’s budget, the text of Ms Jackson’s speech makes clear the Accord is the main game.

“If Australia is to reach its full potential, we must harness the full power of universities and we can only do that if we have the right policy settings. We can – and must – do this through the Accord.”

Ms Jackson also sets out what appear UA’s preferred ground for Accord discussions.

* funding for university research and development

* visa changes to allow more international students to work in Australia after graduating

* “a funding model that ensures Australia can adapt to growing and changing education and skills needs”

* an end to the previous government’s Job Ready Graduates fee model, “equity and accessibility are hallmarks of Australia’s university system. These values should be reflected in the way that we fund higher education.”

Mr Clare says the terms of reference for the accord and the “eminent Australians” to oversee the process will announced next month (CMM October 14).