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Universities Australia sees ministerial manoeuvres as a positive step

Universities Australia has welcomed the decision to add higher education and research to the same ministerial portfolio as industry and innovation.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced last week that Chris Emerson, minister for trade and competitiveness, would take on responsibility for tertiary education, skills, science and research in addition to his existing work following the resignation of Chris Bowen from the government.

“These new ministerial arrangements underscore the central importance of higher education to Australia’s efforts to lift trade, competitiveness, productivity and innovation in order to expand and transform the economy”, Universities Australia’s chief executive Belinda Robinson said in a statement.

However, writing for the independent news website The Conversation, Robinson also warned that universities now need stability after the upheaval of the past few years.

“The sector has faced a revolving door of ministers in the past 16 months with the most recent, Chris Bowen only appointed in February this year and resigning last week,” she wrote. “Universities fear that with such a loss of continuity, key policy decisions including in relation to funding strategic national research infrastructure, investment in university fellowship programs and implementation of the AsiaBound programme could be at risk or delayed.”