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Cabinet shuffle sees integration of higher education and research

The Australian government has reintegrated science and research with higher education in a re-shuffle of ministerial portfolios announced on 12 December.

The expanded Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education will be under the control of Chris Evans, current minister for tertiary education.

Greg Combet, former climate change minister, will now head a separate Department for Industry and Innovation.

Kim Carr, the outgoing innovation minister, will move to the junior ministry, holding the portfolios of Manufacturing and Defence Materiel.

The Australian media has interpreted this move as a demotion for Carr, reportedly influenced by his position on the party’s left.

“He pays the price for allegedly having thrown his lot in behind Kevin Rudd,” said Nick Economou of Monash University’s School of Political and Social Inquiry.

The reuniting of research with tertiary education follows the splitting of the portfolios upon Labour’s election under Kevin Rudd in 2007.

“STA is especially pleased to see the breadth and depth of the portfolio for minister Evans. The integration of the education, skills and research portfolios can only benefit Australia,” read a statement from Science & Technology Australia.

Glyn Davis, chair of Universities Australia, said: “This is an excellent move. Research and higher education are inextricably linked and it is sensible to have them managed together under the newly expanded Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.”

However, Carr’s departure has provoked regret among the research community.

“We are saddened to see Senator Carr move away from a direct ministerial role with universities after four years as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research. Senator Carr has made an enormous contribution to supporting and extending investment in research,” said Barney Glover, vice-chancellor of Charles Darwin University.