Time to act to build A Smarter Australia

La Trobe University has backed calls for the university sector and government to develop a shared approach to building A Smarter Australia.

Four students with laptop

The university sector today launched the first ever comprehensive higher education policy agenda, A Smarter Australia, which outlines how universities and government can work together to create a more innovative, productive, and economically competitive future for the nation.

“Australia is a great country, but we have any number of challenges to face if we want to remain internationally competitive,” La Trobe Vice-Chancellor John Dewar said.

“Universities are at the coal face of the research and innovation that can drive ongoing productivity gains and ensure Australia retains its place as a leader in our increasingly globalised world.

“We must leverage our hard-won strengths and build our investment in higher education for the good of the future health and economic wellbeing of the nation.”

Professor Dewar said that A Smarter Australia provided the road map for a smarter, stronger and more prosperous Australia by building on Australia’s comparative advantage in higher education.  

The policy statement, developed over the past 12 months, responds to four trends driving change in Australian higher education: the emergence of digital technologies; increasing globalisation and growing international competition in the Asian century; the need for economic and industrial renewal and diversification; and the need to arrest declining national productivity.

“La Trobe is firmly focused on making a difference to the big issues of our time, so there is a strong fit between our goals and those of the policy agenda launched today,” Professor Dewar said.

“La Trobe has an international reputation in molecular and biosciences and is one of Australia’s top research universities in these fields. 

“Together, La Trobe and state and federal government have invested at least $400 million invested in new scientific research facilities at La Trobe over the past five years, and the model is a great example of what can be achieved by working in partnership.

“We are very conscious of our responsibility to the broader community to deliver real value from this investment and make a contribution to the priorities issues we face as a nation.”

Over the past two decades, investment in higher education and research has not kept pace with the rest of the developed world. “While there has been an increase in the level of investment made in recent years, this has not been sufficient to lift Australia from the bottom 20 per cent of OECD nations for the level of public investment made in universities.”

“As a nation we really need to do better if we are to realise the full potential of our higher education system in creating a prosperous future for Australia.

A Smarter Australia calls for a partnership between the university sector and government to establish a practical and pragmatic policy framework around four key themes:

  • Increasing Australians’ university participation
  • Developing Australia’s globally engaged university sector 
  • A powerful research and innovation system that drives economic and social progress  
  • Increasing investment, improving efficiency and reducing red tape

Universities Australia will mount a public campaign to promote a better understanding of role and contribution of universities to the economic and social wellbeing of all Australians.

“Our vision is for a smarter Australia – one that is prosperous, diverse and proud of its inventiveness. We believe that by following this agenda, we can make this vision a reality.”


Megan Fletcher
Vice-Chancellor’s Office
T +0428 139 531 | E m.fletcher@latrobe.edu.au