Home Hybrid Learning Unis skimping on education research to splurge on “growing army of administrators” – analysis

Unis skimping on education research to splurge on “growing army of administrators” – analysis


Unis skimping on education research to splurge on

An analysis of Federal Education Department data on university staffing levels reveals billions of dollars is being spent a “rapidly growing army of administrators” instead of investing in education and research.

Between 1996 and 2023, Australian universities employed 66,577 people in non-academic roles, such as administrators, accounting for more than half (57%) of all university employees.

Since 1996, non-academic staffing at universities has increased by a staggering 72%, compared to an increase of 47% in academic staffing.

The analysis, conducted by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), also found that in the latest reporting periods, Australia’s most prominent universities – the Group of Eight – spent $3.2bn per annum on non-academic staff salaries.

‘Bureaucracy is now the top priority of our failing tertiary education system’

Dr Bella d’Abrera, the IPA’s Director of the Foundations of Western Civilisation Program, said Australia’s universities are essentially “spending billions each year to not teach students”.

“The core business of a university is to teach and undertake research, yet Australian universities are spending billions of dollars employing a rapidly growing army of administrators,” Dr d’Abrera said. “This highlights how bureaucracy is now the top priority of our failing tertiary education system.”

Dr d’Abrera said that instead of “blithely pouring even more money” into universities, governments must look at structural reform to improve standards, and put students and research at the centre of Australia’s university system.

“It is astonishing that Vice Chancellors continually cry poor when they are spending billions of dollars on employing administrators and not improving teacher or educational quality for university students,” she said.

“When you have more administrators than academics in universities it clearly demonstrates a culture that is more interested in growing and sustaining a bureaucracy for its own benefit, rather than educating students and advancing research.”

In the 2024-25 Budget, the Federal Government committed to adopting the recommendations of the Universities Accord to raise the tertiary attainment target from 60-80% per cent of people in the workforce, and for the establishment of a National Student Ombudsman which will place a significant administrative burden on universities.

However, Dr d’Abrera said this massive influx of students and red tape will require a greater expansion of university bureaucracies.

“This will raise course fees and inevitably put more pressure on taxpayers to fund even higher administrative staff numbers.”

‘More people earning more money, with more skills’

Federal Education Minister Jason Clare said the Universities Accord makes the argument that by 2050 Australia is going to need a workforce where 80% of people have a TAFE or university qualification.

“If we don’t, we will be poorer and less productive than we otherwise would be,” Minister Clare told The Educator. “To hit that target we need more people from outer suburbs, the regions and from disadvantaged backgrounds getting a crack at university or TAFE. That’s what our reforms are all about.”

Minister Clare said that according to work done by the Federal Education Department, if the Accord’s targets are met, Australia can earn $240bn in additional income over the next two decades or so.

“That’s more people earning more money, with more skills.”

Minister Clare said it is important to note that universities are not only places where people work and study, but also places where people live.

“We need to ensure they are safe” he said. “One in 20 students have experienced sexual assault since they started university and 1 in 6 have been sexually harassed.”

 Clare also emphasised that not enough has been done to tackle sexual violence in Australia’s universities.

“For too long students haven’t been heard. That now changes,” he said. “The National Student Ombudsman will be independent and have the powers to investigate complaints and resolve disputes with universities.”

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