Media Release-Industry placements, transferable skills development, better data the key to Australia’s research future: national training review

Industry placements for PhD students and flexibility for graduate training are two key recommendations of a comprehensive review of Australia’s research training system launched today by Federal Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham.

Established by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) as part of the Securing Australia’s Future program, the review’s recommendations focus on creating incentives for
increased industry involvement in Higher Degree by Research (HDR) training, developing an industry placement scheme for HDR candidates, providing prospective candidates with better information on career outcomes, developing new entry pathways to HDR programs, and creating more opportunities for Indigenous participation in HDR training.

(access report here)

“The Review of Australia’s Research Training System report provides a blueprint for supporting and strengthening our research training system” said ACOLA President, Professor Andrew Holmes AM PresAA FTSE. “Research students are a critical component of our national innovation system, and we must ensure that they receive training that allows them to conduct world-class research and equips them for a variety of jobs.”

The Review of Australia’s Research Training System was undertaken by a working group of top Australian experts in research, higher education and industry led by John McGagh FTSE, former Head of Innovation at Rio Tinto.

“Australia’s industry–university collaboration performance lies close to last among international competitors: this situation is unacceptable for a nation striving to transition to an innovation-driven economy,” said Mr McGagh.

“Improving industry collaboration in HDR programs is essential to address this issue. We encourage the university sector to drive proactive industry-university collaboration, and we encourage industry to engage with universities in order to benefit from the skills and expertise of HDR candidates.”

Key findings of the review include the need to:

  • Improve training opportunities in industry-relevant research areas
  • Create industry placements for higher degree researchers
  • Benchmark training for all against the best overseas institutions
  • Establish alternative entry pathways and flexible scholarships for higher degree researchers
  • Better embed transferable skills development in HDR programs

“Government clearly has a role in improving the system, but many of the actions fall to universities and industry,” Mr McGagh said.

“We’d like to see commitment from industry, government and academia to implementing on our investment in their future, and ultimately improve Australia’s performance internationally.”

The report is available on 


ACOLA is an independent, not-for-profit organisation that supports evidence-based interdisciplinary research. ACOLA combines the strengths of the four Australian Learned Academies: Australian Academy of the Humanities, Australian Academy of Science, Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, and Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering.


Mr John McGagh FTSE (Chair)
Professor Helene Marsh FAA FTSE (Deputy Chair)
Professor Mark Western FASSA (Deputy Chair)
Professor Michael Barber FAA FTSE
Professor Majella Franzmann FAHA
Emeritus Professor Cindy Gallois FASSA
Professor Stephen Garton FAHA FASSA
Professor Jim McCluskey FAA
Professor Robyn Owens FTSE