A world-first study on innovation in Higher Education by the Australian Innovation Research Centre (AIRC) at University of Tasmania and the LH Martin Institute at University of Melbourne, has shown that Australian and New Zealand universities are prolific innovators.

The report, based on a comprehensive survey investigating the managerial and administrative functions of 39 Australian and six New Zealand universities has found that the majority of universities have implemented significant innovative measures in the last two years.

These include implementing faster processes for service and providing better support for students and teaching and learning activities.

Professor Leo Goedegebuure of the LH Martin Institute, co-author of the report, said that the high innovation rate is very similar to the results of other surveys of public sector organisations in Europe and Australia.

“Universities give a great deal of importance to improving the student experience, which is the largest reason given for innovating and trying new approaches.”

Professor Anthony Arundel of the AIRC, the other co-author, explained that the type of innovation also depends on the function.

“For inward facing functions like human resources and financial services, the biggest drive for innovation is the need to do more with the same amount of resources.

“While for outward facing functions like marketing and communication, the biggest motivation is to improve the student experience and their university’s brand or reputation”.

The report also found that innovation depends on the organisation’s culture. The research identified a link between senior executive support for a positive innovation culture and the percentage of staff involved in innovation.

According to Professor Goedegebuure, the research paints a different picture to what is typically thought of about the sector.

“The report shows that universities are very serious about process and product innovation, and that a lot of effort is being placed on doing the right things with the public resources they receive.”

“It also shows our universities adopting state-of-the-art methods, being open and collaborative, which in turn suggests that we have the capability to play a key role in a new, knowledge-based economy”.