Speech by Go8 CEO: Graduate Employability and Industry Partnerships Forum

1 Aug 2016
Thank you for inviting me to join you.

The title of my presentation today is billed as examining the impact of the Turnbull government’s innovation agenda on higher education and employability – with a sub theme of how can the Higher Education sector play in this new space….

This of course is not new space for universities and its always worth knowing your history in order to have an understanding of where we are headed.

So a little history….The first university in Europe was the University of Bologna (1088) which began as a law school teaching Roman Law – which was in demand across Europe for those defending the right of nations against empire and church – closely followed by the University of Paris in or around 1150 and the University of Oxford in 1167.

All over Europe rulers and city governments began to create universities to satisfy a thirst for knowledge, and the belief that society would benefit from the scholarly expertise generated from these institutions. Things started to change between 1500 and 1800 – when - according to the very reliable Wikipedia - universities of Europe would see a tremendous amount of growth, productivity and innovative research.

Australia’s first university was, of course the University of Sydney established in 1850, followed closely by the University of Melbourne in 1853 and Adelaide in 1874 – and so on. What is important here in this short history lesson - is the distinctive nature of Australia’s universities - to their forebears in Europe and the UK. Whilst the model for the University of Sydney - - driven by William Charles Wentworth - was largely based on Oxford and Cambridge with their focus on literature, philosophy and mathematics – as noted by Professor Glyn Davis in a speech in 2013 the model also took into account the need to provide professionals for the colonies.

And – like universities - Innovation has been with us for centuries. The wheel, language, the legal system, the engine, the light bulb, the telegraph and so it goes on. Fast forward to 2016 and Australia’s universities remain the engine room of both our national innovation and our workforce – so this is definitely not a new space for us.

As Australia’s leading universities the Go8 now - as we did over a century ago – deliver quality graduates. The latest figures show we currently deliver Australia some 90,000 of those quality graduates each year.

The question we must ask ourselves now however – is – in this fast-moving, ever-changing 21st Century, what does that piece of paper, the years of study, mean to their graduate future? Three generations ago the answer was far more clear-cut.Choose career, study for career, enter career, climb up the career slippery pole, exit career with grey hair, receive watch as a thank you for contribution. One life, one job.

Linear. Expected. Delivered.

But today data suggests a graduate of today will most likely have 17 jobs across five careers in their lifetime. It also shows that graduate employment is currently slumping - as this conference introductory material correctly emphasised. Plus we are faced with areas of significant graduate oversupply that must be addressed.

This matters to us.

Please click here for the full speech.