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Recently, the state of the art in university research and research investment has been at the forefront of the higher education scene in Australia.
On 28 November, the Australian Government released The National Research Investment Plan, which intends to be a comprehensive instrument and to provide a basis for a coordinated approach to research investment. The plan follows the proposal derived from the Australian Government 2011 review of the public funding on research, which called for a national strategic framework. It comprises four key points. The first is the objective of guiding government decision making with the aim of strengthening the impact of research investment on productivity growth and living standards. The second – national research fabric – involves the investment in basic and applied research capacity and the focus on publicly funded research, research workforce, research infrastructure, domestic and international collaboration and business research. The third point – research investment principles – comprises seven principles to ensure that the public investment in research is delivered efficiently. The last point – strategic research priorities – aims to ensure that investment is focused on high priority research needs. The plan also outlines 12 actions to be undertaken to implement the plan. The National Research Investment Plan was developed by the Australian Research Committee (ARCom), which in the next 12 months will be responsible for implementing the plan. The plan is foreseen to be updated every three years.
The second recent development in Australian’s higher education and research scenes was the release of the results of the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) on 6 December. ERA is an assessment system, which evaluates the quality of research produced at Australian universities by discipline and identifies the research strengths of individual universities and of the sector as a whole. It also identifies the areas where improvement can still be pursued. The first ERA evaluation took place in 2010. The results of the current evaluation, in 2012, show that the size and productivity of the research sector are both increasing. In addition, there was also an improvement in quality, as Australian universities obtained higher ratings overall in 2012 than in 2010. The results also indicate that 10 Australian universities are performing above the world standard for research. On commenting the results of ERA 2012, the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research – Senator Chris Evans – stated that “Australia is on track to have 10 universities in the world’s top 100 by 2025 – a target set out in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper” (see ACA Newsletter – Education Europe, November 2012). The next round of ERA assessments is foreseen to take place in 2015.