Professor Terry is also vice-chancellor of the University of Queensland, chair of the Research Sustainability Working Group, and on Monday was named as one of the five most powerful people in Australia’s education sector as part of the AFR Magazine annual Power issue.
She described COVID-19 and the Jobs-ready Graduates package as making “an interesting juxtaposition”. By far the biggest challenge for the sector was the closure of international borders.
We’re seeing hardship levels we haven’t seen before. Mental health is challenged. There is a lot of uncertainty and isolation.
— Deborah Terry, vice-chancellor, University of Queensland
Universities Australia estimates the revenue shortfall across 39 public universities in 2020 will climb to $4.8 billion and by 2023 a total in $16 billion in revenue will have been forgone.
“That said we can also see the absolute importance of our sector as we start on the road to recovery.
“We have to not only produce graduates, we’ve got to upskill and re-skill the people who have lost their jobs, and we’ve got to be part of an ecosystem that includes big business and small to medium enterprises located on our campuses.”
COVID-19 underlined the close relationship between universities and the community. Professor Paul Young and associate professor Keith Chappell at the University of Queensland are running a phase one clinical trial of a COVID-19 vaccine with first results expected in November.
In its pre-budget submission to government, Universities Australia called for a premium in the R&D tax incentive for companies that collaborate with universities as well as a stabilisation fund to inject emergency money into research.
Professor Terry said she was concerned by the outlook for domestic undergraduates who missed out on the usual face to face contact and relied on part-time employment which had dried up completely.
“We’re seeing hardship levels we haven’t seen before. Mental health is challenged. There is a lot of uncertainty and isolation. It keeps coming up in the surveys were are running.
“Psychology is my area of research and the mental health of students under COVID has become much more of a concern for us.”
Higher education and the COVID-19 crisis dominates the AFR Magazine Power 2020, education list. Mr Tehan, heads the list, having tied money for additional university places to the ability of universities to get students into jobs. Also for his Jobs-ready Graduates Bill which is intended to encourage students to think of future employment but universities say will leave them with less money from domestic teaching.
Professor Terry is number two on the list followed by the Group of Eight’s Vicki Thomson, vocational education reformer Steven Joyce and Western Sydney University’s chancellor Peter Shergold who wrote a groundbreaking report on getting year 12 school students into work, training or higher education.
The AFR Magazine annual Power issue is out on Friday, October 2.