Public Event

The future of higher education in the UK and Australia: what can we learn from each other?

  • Tuesday, 12 Sep 2017 13:30 - 16:00
  • Australian High Commission, Strand, London, WC2B 4LA


With participation in higher education attracting almost half of the school leaver age group in both the UK and Australia, the aggregate public and private costs of higher education institutions, the national and global contributions and connectedness of universities, the public/private funding balance and the long term consequences of tuition debt have become front rank policy issues.

Debates about the role and benefits of higher education are unsettled in both countries, especially in relation to graduate employability, and though higher education is more important to society than ever before, the universities have a nagging sense that government is not listening (and vice versa). On tuition, each country has developed income-contingent loans as the principal financing mechanisms but there are differences between the settings of the schemes and in the extent and type of direct public subsidies.

Both countries want a stable system that has consensual public support and ensures financial sustainability but have yet to find it. Australia has undergone four years of debate about successive funding reform packages, while in the recent general election in the UK, the possibility of fee abolition triggered a significant shift in voting behaviour among young people.

The panel of speakers at the seminar, which includes economists, policy specialists and university leaders, will discuss similarities and differences between higher education, and its regulation, financing and politics in the UK and Australia. For example, speakers will compare, remark on and debate the merits or otherwise of tuition loans and taxation-based repayments, higher education free now and/or forever, student support funding, research assessment, teaching assessment and industry support in these two jurisdictions, geographically distanced yet often very similar in their political culture and educational culture.


David Sweeney, Executive Chair Designate, Research, England and a principal public servant in the regulation of higher education in England



  • Professor Peter Coaldrake, Vice-Chancellor and President of Queensland University of Technology and former President of the OECD’s Program on Institutional Management in Higher Education
  • Professor Bruce Chapman, Professor of Economics at the Australian National University and recently appointed to the inaugural Sir Roland Wilson Chair of Economics Download the presentation


  • Lord David Willetts, former UK Minister for Higher Education and Science and the architect of the present system of tuition loans-based financing in England
  • Professor Lorraine Dearden, Professor of Economics at the UCL Institute of Education and affiliated with the Institute of Fiscal Studies Download the presentation


  • Professor Simon Marginson, Professor of International Higher Education at the UCL Institute of Education, Director CGHE, and former Professor Higher Education at the University of Melbourne (2006-2013) Download the paper

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