Earlier this month Vice Chancellor and Chair of Universities Australia Professor Deborah Terry spoke at the National Press Club on the important role universities play in society, where she emphasised the role they have played during COVID-19. In her address, Terry cited that the “vast majority of Australians understand the cultural and societal value of international education” emphasising university students bring $40 billion a year to the Australian economy with international students coming to the country to study and “supporting jobs, wages, local shops, tourism operators, and small businesses.” However, with borders closed to international students, Australian has lost $1.8 billion in revenue.
Yet, Professor Terry continued to emphasise the growing need for collaboration between government and universities to combat the world’s problems from highlighting solutions universities have fostered from improving farming of mangos in the country, vaccine research for COVID-19, and combating the early 2020 wildfires that ravaged the country. Universities, Terry said, not only make “an immense contribution to the health and wellbeing, prosperity and sustainability of our nation”, but contributed an estimated $41 billion dollars to the economy in 2018 and supported around 260,000 jobs, according to Catriona Jackson, CEO of UA. With Australian businesses opening up and life returning to a semi-normal, Australia is poised to work collaboratively with universities to foster economic growth by working with career centres.
This comes at a time when the Australian government is caught up in a heated debate over a 2020 policy measure that opened up 39,000 university places for Australian students with funding through 2023. For the 2020-2021 academic year, year 12 students who usually defer for a gap year are no longer doing so, due to travel restrictions and a poor job market resulting in an increased demand for enrollment at universities. To meet with demand and university collaboration, the Australian government is funneling students into industries with high job growth. This includes degrees in nursing, psychology, maths, architecture, etc. all courses which pre-pandemic modeling shows that 62% of employment growth in the next five years will be in health care, science, technology, education, and construction. Yet, for humanities courses fees will double which critics of the measure say reinforces an increasingly “business-oriented focus” by the Australian government.
Yet, as Professor Terry emphasised in her address to the National Press Club, universities can offer a world of collaboration for all sectors of the economy. It is up to institutions and student services to guide those students with the right skills to be successful in the job market, regardless of degree or study. One key is the ongoing emphasis from universities on improving soft skills as they will continue to be an important factor in job requirements for graduates such as career adaptability, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and teamwork.
Symplicity UniHub is designed to support an institution-wide approach to skills development. UniHub connects students to university opportunities which translates into desirable skills that today’s employers desire. UniHub adoption is critical for creating a unified campus experience. By providing a collaborative environment between teams and departments across the institution, students benefit from a single engagement marketplace resulting in a full view of all student interactions at a university level.