Joining the Dots (JTD)

Where are the academics of tomorrow? Supply and demand issues for Australian universities

Daniel Edwards, ACER


The issues documented throughout many of the 2011 Joining the Dots Research Briefings have shown that the current growth policies for higher education in Australia are ambitious, important and require ongoing analysis and planning. These issues raised in the JTD Series thus far have focused on impact in terms of student numbers through demand, future trends, retention and growth in the sector. This briefing switches focus to explore how the academic workforce fits into the picture. A viable and engaged academic workforce is vitally important if the expansion of the higher education system is to be a success. However, issues with the sustainability of the academic profession have been raised consistently over the past few years and documented widely. Hugo in particular has been at the forefront in raising awareness of the demographic issues facing an increasingly ageing workforce. Policy developments stemming primarily from the Bradley and Cutler reviews in 2008 have also added pressure to these demographic issues, and have resulted in the setting of Government targets for increasing undergraduate enrolments in Australian universities. This briefing explores a range of research projects undertaken in the past few years that examine issues of demand and supply in the academic workforce. The briefing examines: workforce demand forecasts; supply estimates; factors influencing supply of academics; and whether there is any relationship between supply and demand. [Author abstract]