About higher education in Australia
Australia is home to one of the best higher education systems in the world, making it a top destination for international students and academics. It has long seen foreign students – and their fees – as a national priority. In fact, the education of international students is Australia’s third largest export, behind iron ore and coal, valued at £12.74 billion a year.
A quarter of all students in Australia – more than 1.3 million – are from abroad. At some institutions, and particularly in business and management courses, Australian-born students are even a minority.
International staff in Australian universities
As student enrolments have grown over the past decade, so have staff numbers. In 2015 there were 120,000 full-time staff, directly employed by universities: over 50,000 academic and over 60,000 professional staff. Australian universities are keen on hiring staff from overseas, though there are immigration and visa requirements.
Some staff specialise in teaching or research, but many combine both; in 2015, more than 27,000 full-time staff members did both teaching and research, while about 15,000 were dedicated to solely to teaching and another 15,000 solely to research.
The Group of Eight (Go8) is a coalition of the most prestigious, research-intensive universities, several of which are known as Sandstone or Brick Universities, the largest and oldest in Australia. The Go8 aims to have the highest standards in academic research and student entry standards, and has a vast range of scholarships available for foreign researchers.
Australia is ranked fourth, with Germany, by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), as an international PhD student destination. The OECD also puts Australia’s university completion rates as third highest, ahead of the United States and the United Kingdom.
University funding and salaries in Australia
A lecturer’s average salary in 2009 was £3,894 per month, while full professor salaries started at more than £6,500 per month. Australian universities encourage employment that respects a work-life balance by offering flexible work arrangements, including part-time employment, job shares, planned career breaks and study leave.
The Department of Education is responsible for administering, funding and developing higher education policy and programmes. The Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) guarantees that all institutions provide comprehensive, nationally consistent qualifications.
The Australian Government has primary responsibility for public funding of Higher Education through the 2003 Higher Education Support Act. The Australian Research Council funds both individual researchers and projects, and their Linkage programmes help to broker partnerships between researchers and industry, government and community organisations, as well as the international community. Commonwealth scholarships give a range of grants for specific purposes, including learning, teaching, research, and research training programmes.
Academic careers in Australia
In Australia, the head of a university is known as the vice-chancellor, who acts as the principal academic officer and chief executive officer. There are typically a number of vice presidents, who support the vice-chancellor on matters of administration, management and leadership. They each look after an area, such as academic affairs, corporate affairs, international affairs, research and so on.
The typical career journey for academics in Australia is modelled on the British system, and starts at the bachelor degree (typically lasting three years), followed by a master’s and then a PhD. Most doctoral graduates will then be appointed at the lecturer or research assistant level. Academics have a range of job titles depending on their seniority, from research officers to lecturers and more senior roles such as professors and associate professors. Different organisations have their own established title systems, but there is a level system in use, from A to E, moving up in seniority. This, rather than the title, determines the academic rank.
Applications cannot usually be made before two years have passed since the previous application, advancement or recruitment. Tenure track positions have been scrapped, so there is occasional scrutiny and advancement is not automatic. Australian government organisations also employ a large number of academics or researchers.
Australian universities also abound with career opportunities outside teaching or academic research. The marketing and communication team manage the university’s brand promotion and external relations. They work in conjunction with student recruitment officers, working from within Australia and abroad. Librarians disseminate information and provide support to students, researchers and lecturing staff.
There may also be a campus management team, responsible for on-site issues and logistic support. A student services team deals with day-to-day student issues and hosts student programmes. The admissions team manages the enrolment process. There will also be a career planning service and a team to co-ordinate alumni association activities. Finance officers safeguard a university’s assets, creating financial plans and implementing financial regulations and procedures.
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