Australia’s universities need to fundamentally reinvent themselves if they are to survive past a decade, a new report says.
The Ernst Young report, released on Wednesday, is the result of six months’ research and interviews with 40 leaders from universities – including 15 vice-chancellors – private tertiary education providers and policy makers.
It predicts that in 15 years public institutions will be run more like corporations but seek to maintain the freedom of inquiry and academic rigour that their long-term reputations rely on.
‘There’s not a single Australian university that can survive to 2025 with its current business model,’ report author Justin Bokor said.
‘At a minimum, universities will need to get much leaner, both in terms of the way they run the back-office, and in use of assets.’
Currently most universities offer a broad range of disciplines to a broad mixture of students, ranging from school leavers to mature age and international students.
They also deliver the bulk of student services and back-office functions, such as IT and human resources, in house.
One of the report’s findings was that all but one of a sample of 15 universities employed more support staff than academic staff.
The report suggests universities could evolve according to one of three models: a streamlined version of existing teaching and research programs using digital technologies; niche dominators which focus on a small range of teaching and research programs but are world class; and transformers which form partnerships with companies to change the way knowledge is accessed and delivered.
Mr Bokor reported several of the industry leaders interviewed felt Australian institutions would continue with much the same model, saying universities had changed little in a thousand years.
Others saw change as inevitable.
But none of the university leaders envisaged their institution becoming teaching-only and giving up research.
Mr Bokor said the tertiary education sector had a vital role in shaping Australia’s future as a high-performing knowledge economy.
‘But, to succeed, Australian universities will need to forge new business models that are dynamic, modern and are fit for the decades ahead,’ he said. (Sky News)