Part 2—Outcome 3

Promote growth in economic productivity and social wellbeing through access to quality higher education, international education and international quality research.

Higher education and research are integral to the long-term success of Australia’s intellectual and economic development. The Department of Education is committed to the development of a world-class higher education system that supports economic and social growth through participation and engagement in quality teaching, learning and research.

Australia maintains a diverse higher education system. In 2013, there were more than 1.3 million students participating in higher education including 328,000 students from overseas.

Over the year the department worked closely with universities and non-university higher education providers, industry and state and territory governments to support advancements in higher education, international education and research. Funding administered through the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and other legislation to support these activities totalled over $14 billion in 2013–14.

Initiatives to promote access, quality and deregulation were focus areas across higher education. The release of the government response to the Review of Higher Education Regulation in October 2013 informed significant developments within the sector to reduce regulatory and administrative burdens. The establishment of the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency ( TEQSA) Advisory Council and proposed changes under the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency Amendment Bill 2014 will ensure universities and institutions can be more responsive to student needs.

The introduction of the demand-driven system has been a significant reform to Australian higher education. In April 2014, the Government released the Review of the Demand Driven System which found that the system had improved access for all students, driven innovation and lifted quality. The higher education reform package announced in the 2014–15 Federal Budget will deliver on the review’s recommendations to extend the system to further expand opportunities for students, increase innovation in courses and modes of delivery, and enhance the quality of teaching and graduates. The expansion of the demand-driven system is expected to support an additional 80,000 students to pursue higher education each year by 2018.

Continued investment in research, research training and research infrastructure ensures that Australian research remains competitive on an international scale. The department works closely with the Australian Research Council on programmes to enhance capability and collaboration, including through the Future Fellows Scheme, which supports mid-career researchers in areas of critical importance. In 2014–15, additional funding will see the creation of 100 new positions per year under the Future Fellows Scheme.

Internationally, Australia is recognised as a world leader in education cooperation and engagement. Australia’s international education and research profile was lifted through mobility and scholarship programmes and engagement in multilateral forums. The Department of Education plays a significant role in the New Colombo Plan (NCP), a signature initiative of the Government to increase Australian undergraduate students’ knowledge of the Indo-Pacific through study and internships in the region.