Intense global competition and new business models

Participation in tertiary education is growing, driven by the rising economic development of large populations and the increasing demands of the workplace. The shifting gravity of the global economic centre to Asia emphasises this global trend in our region.

The international education market continues to grow in Australia, with WA and UWA holding a relatively small share of this market. It is a challenge for Perth, and consequently UWA, to gain recognition as an international study destination. Work with Study Perth and other WA universities is addressing this.

There is differential demand across professions, disciplines and markets both domestically and internationally. This presents opportunities in growing current and emerging markets in traditional areas of UWA strength and in emerging disciplines and professions.

These trends are being compounded by rapid disruption to the traditional campus-based, combined education/ research business model of universities. Traditional universities are moving into the digital space often with unbundled offerings (e.g. education only or skills training without entire qualifications). New entrants are penetrating the education and training space without some of the costly overheads of universities (campuses or research, for example).

There is a challenge in diversification of what is offered, where it is offered and how it is offered.

Government and policy

With the role of Federal Government funding and legislation in the Australian university sector, decisions by the Federal and state governments can have significant influence on capacity. The demand-driven system for undergraduate courses created significant growth in higher education between 2012 and 2017. This growth has come at significant cost to Federal Government, with pressure on the Minister and Department to reduce costs, leading to a new focus on the cost of teaching and the introduction of performance-based funding measures.

Traditional Federal Government research funding pools are also becoming more competitive with less funding overall being allocated to historical competitive and block grant funding mechanisms. Similar to education, there is an increased focus on outcomes via research relevance, translation and impact.

Responses to these funding and regulatory changes need to be twofold; a renewed focus on the performance measures being used by Federal Government to guide their investment decisions and a considered diversification of offerings into new disciplines, markets and modes (including digital) complemented by expansion of research funding sources.

Technology and the nature of work

Neither teaching nor research are immune from the influence of digital disruption. Compounding this, Industry 4.0 is transforming the way we work and socialise, creating a new environment for reskilling, retraining and engaging with education.

Expectations are changing – both for students and employers – that put a greater emphasis on broader work-ready capabilities and the ability to shift across traditional discipline-bound roles. Added to this, there is an ongoing need for workers to adapt to new technology and the advancement it brings. To address these two trends, a new vision for education is necessary.

Research is shifting to the simulated, the automated and the virtualised, data rich and reproducible. Learning can leverage the same technology, and education can be accessed from anywhere in different forms, offering personalised learning environments and curricula enhanced with new pedagogy.

UWA is responding to these challenges by investing in the digital and physical spaces to enhance the student experience, and facilitating the development of workforce capacity and capability to build resilience and flexibility to adapt to the changing higher education environment.

The impact of legislation

On 1 July 2018, the Western Australian Government increased the payroll tax levy for organisations with a taxable payroll above $100 million, for a five-year period. The immediate impact for UWA is a $2.5 million increase in annual payroll tax contributions.

As a not-for-profit community organisation, this tax increase materially impacts the University's ability to support students, research and community programs.

The impact of litigation

There have been no legal proceedings involving the University in 2018, either underway or forthcoming, which could have had a material impact on the University's operations.