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In a new discussion paper for the Australian Universities Accord, a review of the country’s higher education system, the panel behind the document say that regulation must be part of the “mainstream life” of institutions.

The 12-month review will look at the role of international education as part of a broader examination of higher education. The paper acknowledges the importance of the sector to Australia both financially and geopolitically.

The paper points to over-reliance on single countries as student source markets as a threat. It also discusses the transformation of traditional source countries like China and Malaysia into competitors, as students increasingly choose these destinations for higher education.

The panel asks 49 specific questions, covering a range of topics including financing, skills gaps and research capacity. They ask stakeholders to “be bold” when responding to the questions that most resonate with them.

“The Accord is our chance to get the policy and funding settings right”

Higher education institutions have welcomed the release of the paper, with Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson describing the accord as the “biggest opportunity for policy reform” the sector has seen in decades.

“The Accord is our chance to get the policy and funding settings right to ensure universities can continue supporting the national interest – now and in the decades ahead,” Jackson said.

“Universities will bring the bold and innovative thinking that this significant reform moment demands as we work in partnership with the independent panel and government to shape our sector’s future.”

The paper also discusses how the VET sector and higher education institutions can work in closer harmony.

Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive, said the accord “offers a pathway to a more integrated tertiary education system”.

“The goal is where the higher education and skills training sectors operate as one but retain their separate strengths and identities,” he said, adding that ITECA will use the consultation process as a chance to set out the case for reform to the regulation and funding of the tertiary education system.

Submission to the consultation will close in April, with an interim report expected to be submitted to Australia’s education minister in June.

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