The impact of university on Australian society

For most students, university is primarily about finding ajob after graduating, and this is fair enough. After all, the premise of spendingsignificant time and money on earning a degree is that you can pursue a careerthat would otherwise be unavailable to you, or at the very least, far moredifficult to attain.

However, becoming employable isn’t the only positive of atertiary education. The benefits of universities are far-reaching and impact onvarious sectors within society, including technology, the health industry andthe economy.


Universities are at the forefront of technologicalinnovation, with research departments constantly publishing academic findingson a vast variety of topics. Despite being a relatively young country,Australia has an impressive track record when it comes to converting researchinto tangible outcomes.

Among the most notable home-grown concepts are wi-fi,developed by John O’Sullivan and his colleagues in 1992 in collaboration withthe CSIRO; and the Cochlear Implant, a bionic ear that assists the hearing-impaired,spearheaded by Graeme Clark at the University of Melbourne.


Finding cures for disease is a major area of research atuniversity level. Just think about how many charities are dedicated to raisingmoney for specific illnesses and ailments. Australia has offered varioussolutions, including spray-on skin for burn victims, Gardasil and Cervarixvaccines to treat human papillomavirus (HPV), and the invention of theelectronic pacemaker.

Perhaps the most significant contribution was the use ofpenicillin as medicine. Working alongside a team of UK researchers, AustralianHoward Florey reshaped the medical industry forever when he discovered how topurify penicillin, so it could combat bacterial infections in people.


The influx of international students into Australianuniversities contributed an unprecedented $24 billion to the local economy in2017. As the country’s third largest export sector, international education ishugely influential and doesn’t appear likely to decline any time soon.

This healthy thirst for the tertiary education has apositive impact on the university sector, boosting financial profiles ofinstitutions and allowing them to spend more money on resources, developmentand expansion.  

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