The Group of Eight is heartened by the renewed, bipartisan interest in higher education. This convergence of views on fundamental tenets of policy is a rare historical opportunity, after 35 years of disagreement, to achieve a coherent policy outcome for Australia. This paper seeks to test the possibilities of this opportunity.
This paper sets out for discussion a new policy design for higher education and university research in Australia. This paper is issued now for three main reasons.
First, there are fundamental problems with the current policy architecture that was designed many decades ago. Despite incremental improvements, including significant advances announced in the 2007 Budget, the overarching policy design no longer suits contemporary circumstances. It will not serve Australia well into the future. Australia’s higher education system remains under-resourced and over-regulated yet under-planned and, hence, insufficiently differentiated to cater for changing needs.
Second, there are signs of unprecedented political bipartisanship on a number of fundamental policy issues, with the Government and the Opposition searching for a way through new complexities that confound higher education policy makers around the world. We have a responsibility to offer our best advice in these circumstances.
Third, there are great opportunities to be seized by designing a new policy framework that will unleash Australia’s intellectual potential in the globalising knowledge society. Ideas, information, capital and people can move now across the boundaries that in the past defined our policy conceptions. Australia’s future competitiveness requires a wider vision of our possibilities and less constraint of our capabilities.