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The impact of university on Australian society

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

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


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

Among the most notable home-grown concepts are wi-fi, developed by John O’Sullivan and his colleagues in 1992 in collaboration with the 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 at university level. Just think about how many charities are dedicated to raising money for specific illnesses and ailments. Australia has offered various solutions, including spray-on skin for burn victims, Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines to treat human papillomavirus (HPV), and the invention of the electronic pacemaker.

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


The influx of international students into Australian universities contributed an unprecedented $24 billion to the local economy in 2017. As the country’s third largest export sector, international education is hugely influential and doesn’t appear likely to decline any time soon.

This healthy thirst for the tertiary education has a positive impact on the university sector, boosting financial profiles of institutions and allowing them to spend more money on resources, development and expansion.