ANU responds to Universities Accord Final Report

ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Genevieve Bell provides an update to the University community on the release of the Universities Accord Final Report.

The Universities Accord Final Report was released on Sunday 25 February 2024. The report contains 47 recommendations which we will review and consider in context as the national university. The Report makes it fundamentally clear the vital role university research and education play in driving the prosperity and wellbeing of Australia - and we look forward to discussing the recommendations and providing a more fulsome response in the coming weeks.

University research and teaching have the power to transform lives, communities, the economy and society for the better. This is a mission that has defined The Australian National University (ANU) since its formation in 1946 and one we are deeply committed to fulfilling for all’Australians for decades to come.

The recommendations in the report represent some of the largest and boldest potential reforms to Australia’s higher education sector. Any reform must be carefully considered and ANU encourages the Australian Government to keep partnering with our universities on these important considerations. What comes next will have a profound bearing on our national higher education sector.

The University is taking time to carefully consider the full report and its key recommendations. On first read, several recommendations bear noting. Many of these build off the recommendations made to the Universities Accord as part of the consultation process.

The first is the report’s clear recommendation to increase our national spend on research and development as a proportion of GDP. This would go a long way to addressing chronic underfunding for research and development across some two decades and bring Australia in line with many other major economies globally. Similarly, a call from the panel to commit to greater funding for the Australian Research Council and to fund the full cost of research are also welcome recommendations. We all know that research is critical to Australia’s future. It is good to see the final report also values research in this way too.

Another notable recommendation is the report’s commitment to equity, and in particular, providing pathways to university to all students who aspire to a university education regardless of their background or personal circumstances. Here at ANU, we know a postcode should not be a barrier to our campus, nor should it be a requirement to success. We have worked tirelessly over many years to ensure that all’Australians who have the desire and marks to study at ANU can. This includes equity programs like the Kambri Scholars program for First Nations students, our sector-leading early application processes and scholarships, providing all new students guaranteed on-campus accommodation, and the wrap-around academic, pastoral and social support we provide every student at ANU. Education is a driver of our productivity - but it not only enrichens our economy; it encourages our minds, our communities and our society. ANU is pleased to see the report shares our vision for access to university education and to teaching students from underrepresented groups.

ANU has also long-held concerns about the Job Ready Graduates policy, which the University outlined in its submission to the report. ANU welcomes the report’s recommendation to replace this policy, which is not delivering the desired outcomes it may have sought to achieve, with a funding model that adequately reflects the true cost of university teaching while also allowing all students to fulfill their university education aspirations.

All recommendations in the report present an opportunity to ensure Australia has the world-class university sector all’Australians deserve and which can keep delivering for our nation. ANU looks forward to working constructively and collaboratively with the Government on what comes next, and to ensure the best interests of Australia’s higher education sector and our nation are met.

On behalf of ANU, I would like to thank Professor Mary O’Kane and the Australian Universities Accord Panel for their report and their important work.

While the University’s leadership team takes time to consider the full report and its recommendations in detail, I encourage all’our staff and students to read it too. You can read the full report online.

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