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Australia is falling behind other countries in performance and investment in higher education. Developed and developing countries alike accept there are strong links between their productivity and the proportion of the population with high-level skills. These countries have concluded that they must invest not only to encourage a major increase in the numbers of the population with degree-level qualifications but also to improve the quality of graduates.

Australia is losing ground. Within the OECD we are now 9th out of 30 in the proportion of our population aged 25 to 34 years with such qualifications, down from 7th a decade ago. Twenty nine per cent of our 25- to 34-year-olds have degree-level qualifications but in other OECD countries targets of up to 50 per cent have already been set. These policy decisions elsewhere place us at a great competitive disadvantage unless immediate action is taken.

This review was established to address the question of whether this critical sector of education is structured, organised and financed to position Australia to compete effectively in the new globalised economy. The panel has concluded that, while the system has great strengths, it faces significant, emerging threats which require decisive action. To address these, major reforms are recommended to the financing and regulatory frameworks for higher education.

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