University research in flux: Policy debate in Australia

Alan Lindsay*, Ruth Neumann

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    6 Citations (Scopus)


    After a brief "golden age" Australian university research faces a difficult future. Two notions, utility and concentration, have become the catchwords of the emerging policy initiatives. Both have tended to be interpreted narrowly and simplistically, utility as having immediate technological applications that will bring economic benefits, and concentration to argue for breaking the teaching-research nexus, reducing the research workforce and thus achieving cost savings. As proposed, both initiatives require more centralised control of research policy and funding. Despite the outstanding record of Australia's universities in research and the absence of evidence to support the benefits claimed for the new initiatives, the pressure for change is gaining momentum. The problems facing Australian universities have much in common with those in other Western countries, although unique solutions must be sought for every setting. This paper argues that, in Australia, the adoption of the easy solution of increased concentration, short-term utility, and centralised control, is likely to compromise the established excellence and diversity in basic research, and to lead to an overall reduction in the scale of university research. Before any changes are instigated, there is a pressing need for a broad-ranging review based on widespread participation in a debate about needs and priorities, and rigorous research into the performance of the existing system and the potential benefits of the changes proposed.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)433-448
    Number of pages16
    JournalHigher Education
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 1987


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