In his Thursday opinion peice Editor of EntreHub.org, Matthew Tukaki, takes a stand on why investing in research by Government is important. The opinion comes at a time when Australia is seeking to reform its higher education sector with legislation before the Senate carrying a tag that research funding is incumbant on the passage of the legislation. For the record Matthew was Chairman of Deakin University CSaRO from 2011 to 2015 and is currently also Chair of the joint initiative between the University of Sydney and the National Science Foundation of the United States, also know as BESERG
I have no doubt that reform of Australia’s higher education system is needed and that such reform should always have a view to the nation’s future prosperity. The truth is the roles required for future industry are still yet to be determined and, therefore, our universities and colleges of higher education need to be given the ability to change as those growth sectors become more apparent.
However, the reality is that our institutions also require the investment needed to ensure their survival and growth. That investment mix is the one discussion that we have not yet had given that the main focus around the deregulation conversation has always been to deregulate thereby provide the sector the ability to set fees as a form of revenue raising and therefore self-sustainability. To allow that to be the only topic being debated is wrong. We must do more now to ensure that the investment mix to maintain and grow high levels of quality education is determined now and not in five or ten years-time. Importantly public education should be seen as an investment and not just a cost as many would have us think.
As someone who has chaired a University research institute (Deakin University Centre for Sustainable and Responsible Organisations 2011 – 2015) and also engaged in developing the partnership between business and academia when it comes to research undertakings the attachment of that very funding to ensure safe passage of the Governments higher education reforms through the Senate is short sighted.
Research, while not fully understood by a great many people in the Australian community, underpins our ability as a nation to both build things and to compete. Research has helped us to develop better ways of growing food, working the land, operate and manufacture goods and services right through to the very technology innovations many of us take for granted today. Research, while intangible as a cost to some, is actually formative in moving the nation forward.
From solar energy to better materials for use in infrastructure, to grains and trees for harvest, to medical and health – there is not one part of the research community that does not touch everyone else in the community.
Professor Ian Chubb, the Chief Scientist has said today that:
“Well, I think that there are things where we can easily clearly see the national interest and why the nation needs to do things. So take food, cyber security, population health, manufacturing, advanced manufacturing, energy, resources - these are areas where we have particularly capability but also a very special need.”
Research is in the national interest and it is a message we should all be taking to our Members of Parliament and Senators – that to attach research based funding to the passing of the higher education reforms is not in the national interest.
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