Professor Coaldrake said “the objective of the game isn’t to throw people out” but rather to introduce a new standard to bolster a defining feature of a university.
“And there might be three or four universities which might struggle to meet the 30 per cent requirement,” he said.
Professor Coaldrake has declined to name the at-risk institutions. He said the regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Authority, would ideally work with the universities to ensure they met the new threshold.
“One can’t be apologetic for a recommendation like that. Because we talk about our universities being world-class so if we want our universities to be world-class, it follows that your research should be world-class,” he said.
Education Minister Dan Tehan endorsed the recommendation and said the government would assist universities in lifting their capacity.
“So I do not see it as something that this will lead to any universities missing out. What it will require is the government working with those universities to make sure that they meet that requirement,” he said.
Mr Tehan welcomed the report as critical to the future of higher education and said the government would respond formally to the recommendations in due course.
Professor Coaldrake has also called for a reduction in the number of provider categories in higher education and introduction of a new label for high-performing providers which do not qualify as universities.
Peak body Universities Australia welcomed the emphasis on research as a core activity for Australia’s universities.
“We especially welcome the recommendation that reinforces the nexus between teaching and research as a defining feature of an Australian university,” said Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson.
The review is one of a number of government initiatives in motion, with an overall goal of revamping the structure and effectiveness of Australia’s post-secondary education systems.
Fergus Hunter is an education and communications reporter for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.