News & Views item - January 2012



ACER Asks: Where Are the Academics of Tomorrow? Supply and Demand Issues for Australian Universities. (January 18, 2012)

The Australian Council for Education Research (ACER) has released the seventh research briefing for their Joining the Dots series: "Where are the academics of tomorrow? Supply and demand issues for Australian universities". In it ACER Senior Research Fellow Dr Daniel Edwards explores how well is the academic cohort equipped to deal with the expected increase in student numbers that will result if the targets of the Bradley Report are attained.


According to Dr Edwards: "A viable and engaged academic workforce is vitally important if the expansion of the higher education system is to be a success."


His findings indicate that "large numbers of research graduates are building careers outside of the Australian higher education sector, reflecting findings from the 2010 National Research Student Survey (NRSS) that show there is a perception among current research students that positions in universities are not widely available". And figures made available by ACER estimate that while some 19,000 current research students in Australia under the age of 40 have serious plans to join the academic profession over the coming decade over 43% of them plan to work outside Australia reducing the available number to ~11,000.


When coupled with recent findings that 48% of the current academic workforce, i.e. ~50,000 individuals, intend either to retire, or locate overseas some time within the next ten years, a considerable gap in academic positions in the medium term is looming.


Dr Edwards suggests that "“Greater emphasis on highlighting the availability of positions is one of the ways the sector can help to ensure there are enough academics to meet future needs", and while the 2010 National Research Student Survey (NRSS) found that research students have a positive impression of the academic career, rating it more attractive than other careers on a wide range of factors including interest and challenge, flexibility, work/life balance and job satisfaction, "No matter how attractive an occupation may be, if a student believes there are no positions available then the chance they will pursue this line of work is likely to be greatly diminished".