Hurley and Van Dyke draw parallels between universities and Australia's automotive manufacturing sector. They point out Australian universities are a much larger industry than car making was at its peak. However, the authors do not go on to draw the other obvious parallel: Australian governments kept subsidizing the Australian automotive industry in a way which made them less internationally competitive. I suggest the same mistake should not be made with universities.
To remain competitive, our universities need to change the educational products offered and the way they are delivered. The two to four year full-time, on-campus degree, offered by Australian universities, is equivalent to the Holden Commodore: large, expensive, and inflexible. Our universities need to offer blended online/on-campus, offshore/onshore learning, with nested qualifications, and workplace learning. This would be the equivalent of the flexible platform vehicles now produced by international auto makers, which allow combustion, hybrid or electric options, in sedan, SUV, and other styles, built in response to consumer demand.
Such predictions may sound alarmist and suggestions for change far fetched. However, in 2017, I warned Australian universities that international students could be suddenly unable to get to Australian campuses, due to an international crisis. I suggested university should be ready with an online teaching contingency, should this happen, and be ready by 2020. The COVID-19 crisis hit in 2020, but unfortunately few universities were ready with an online contingency.
Hurley, P., Van Dyke, N., (2020). Australian investment in education: higher education. Mitchell Institute, Melbourne. URL http://www.mitchellinstitute.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/Australian-Investment-in-Education-Higher-Education.pdf