What Australia can learn from France on higher education – The Australian Financial Review

Ms Vidal who is in Australia to sign research contracts at Australian universities in the wake of the $50 billion dollar French submarine contract said she was not here to give advice to the Australian government.

But in the case of France the prime minister and the president had recently decided on a big new innovation program.

It had expanded her job as a higher education minister to include research and innovation, it had created an innovation fund which would underwrite disruptive work coming out of universities and this would answer to the ministry of the economy, not the education minister.

“Putting disruptive technology under the economic ministry is a strong signal to say all these things work together for the strength of the economy.”

About 3 per cent of French government spending goes on innovation, research and development. Frederique Vidal, French Minister for Higher Education, Research and Innovation. Alex Ellinghausen

And in the last few weeks the government had passed a law which would require the parliament to spend 3 per cent of GDP on innovation.

Professor Schmidt said the message for Australia was that research needed to be wide and not a band aid. He told The Australian Financial Review the French model included a high degree of research integration which should be a model for Australia.

“We need to sit down and look at R&D at a national level. We need to integrate it more strongly. Training, research, industry, universities, government, we need a process where everyone gets together.

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“The other side of this is not to abandon research-based universities.The definition of a university is a place that teaches and researches, but the focus now is so much on the teaching side that we are losing the core idea of research.”

He said government and universities should not forget the basic bachelors degree is a research degree. Even non-science bachelors degrees relied on teachers doing research when they weren’t teaching, he said.

On Thursday, federal eduction minister Dan Tehan will tell the university vice chancellors the government will provide the university sector with $12 billion for research for the next 4 years.

But Mr Tehan will argue the money must be shared across all of Australia including the regions.

He’ll also take a stick to universities saying the university sector banked an operating surplus of $2 billion in 2017 – a 28 per cent increase on the previous year’s surplus.

And in response to the university anger over losing $325 million in research funding last year, Mr Tehan will point out universities spent $327 million on advertising, marketing and promotional expenses last year.

In an advance copy of his speech he said could not find one university research project that investigated lifting regional/rural attendance at universities that had received Australian Research Council funding, going as far back as 2001.

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