“The final report from the Universities Accord Review Panel, with its focus on system growth and equity measures to meet future skills needs, is a milestone for Australia’s tertiary education sector,” Innes Willox, Chief Executive of the national employer association Ai Group said today.


“The Review recommends the goal of 80 per cent of working Australians having at least one tertiary qualification (vocational or higher education) by 2050. The target of equity parity of undergraduate university students for all under-represented cohorts by 2050 is an important target, noting that approximately 50% of jobs of the future will require university qualifications.


“To realise the full benefit of the proposed expansion, it will be essential that the system reforms are closely aligned to industry needs and support sustainable economic growth and prosperity.


“Ai Group has long advocated the need for a connected and coherent tertiary education sector and better support for work integrated learning so that graduates are well positioned for job opportunities and employers can access the skilled workers they need.


“We are particularly pleased the Final Report supports the rollout of degree apprenticeships, which Ai Group has been at the forefront of establishing across Australia.


“The challenge will be to ensure universities systematically embrace applied learning approaches and that the Vocational Education and Training sector is valued and adequately funded.


“A vital recommendation of the Final Report is to immediately progress the adoption of the recommendations of the Noonan Review of the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF), something long championed by Ai Group. AQF reforms underpin the success of the Accord Panel’s proposals, and it is critical that these are now progressed as a priority.  We acknowledge that the policy work of the late Peter Noonan strongly underpins the framing and directions of the Universities Accord report.  The industry-focussed alignment of equitable skills development and learning is the central tenant.


“A strong focus on the importance of world-class learning and teaching is welcome, as is the proposed establishment of The Learning and Teaching Council.


“Establishing a new national body, the Australian Tertiary Education Commission (ATEC), will also assist in the implementation of the proposed reforms, including closer collaboration with vocational education and training.  Industry representation on this important new body is critical, along with effective collaboration with Jobs and Skills Australia to ensure an evidence-based approach is adopted.


“Ai Group supports the expansion of support for research and development and the recommendation to examine national research funding, which if adopted must recognise the central role of industry in Australia’s innovation and research system.


“We welcome the expansion of CSP to micro-credentials and TAFE and we will study, in detail, other proposed funding arrangements, including needs-based funding and the proposed Higher Education Futures Fund.


“Engagement with industry will be critical to successful implementation of the reforms proposed in the Final Report and we look forward to working with the government as they consider the recommendations,” Mr Willox said.


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