The pandemic and the politics of Australian research governance

Greg McCarthy, Kanishka Jayasuriya

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Following the 1989 unified higher education reforms, the Australian academic research system was built upon the notion of depoliticisation (i.e., keeping the political character of decision at one remove from governance) to govern the contradiction between research credibility and governmental economic priorities. The article argues that the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the tension between independent research and governmental economic priorities. The pandemic, also, weakened university autonomy via the closure of the national border, reducing overseas student fees, a significant source of research funding. The article maintains that the conservative Morrison government used the opportunity to politicise research around commercialisation and national sovereignty. The argument being that the pandemic exposed Australia's research and development (R&D) dependence and with it the question of industrial sovereignty, prompting the government to couple academic research to industry policy. Secondly, the pandemic reinforced the conservative government's aim to concentrate research in selected commercial areas and to exert this priority on to the research funding agency, the Australian Research Council (ARC). Lastly, the article contends that the COVID pandemic, originating in Wuhan, intensified the Morrison government's geopolitical concerns over China, and this disquiet flowed into research policy, which problematised research collaboration with Chinese researchers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)679-693
Number of pages15
JournalHigher Education Research & Development
Issue number3
Early online date9 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'The pandemic and the politics of Australian research governance'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this