Leading universities in Australia and UK set out plans for closer ties following Free Trade Agreement

08 February 2022

Top research universities from the UK and Australia are joining forces to find new ways of delivering ground breaking research, increase trade, investment and boost both countries’ economies.

In a joint letter sent to the Australian and British foreign and trade ministers, the Chairs of the Group of Eight (Go8) and the Russell Group, their countries’ key representative bodies for world-class research-intensive universities, said they would establish a new committee to look at ways to increase two-way research collaboration and explore how this could be used to boost trade and investment and support economic growth.

It comes after a landmark new free trade agreement (FTA) between Australia and the United Kingdom was signed in December 2021, and follows the visit of Foreign Secretary Liz Truss and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace to Australia last month to forge closer defence and security ties with the nation.

Proposals to maximise the new opportunities created by the FTA include a strategic alliance on research and innovation based on shared research strengths; facilitating student and researcher mobility; removing barriers to commercialisation between researchers and industry partners; and cutting bureaucracy through shared IP, data sharing agreements, and minimising travel restrictions.

The letter, signed by Professor Margaret Gardner (Chair, Group of Eight) and Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell (Chair, Russell Group) can be found below.

Commenting, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said: 

“Australia is already one of the UK’s closest research collaborators, and the UK-Australia Free Trade Agreement provides a fantastic opportunity to strengthen academic ties that will help us advance knowledge, develop new skills and tackle major challenges including net zero. We will be looking at our shared national priorities and at disciplines where we have world-leading and complementary research strengths such as in the social sciences, AI, clean tech or health.

“People and ideas will be at the heart of our economic recovery and future growth, so we’re excited to work with our Go8 partners in Australia to explore how the Free Trade Agreement could help bring down barriers to talent flow and enhance research and commercial activity between our two countries.”

Vicki Thomson, Chief Executive of the Group of Eight, said:

“The world class research undertaken by the Group of Eight and Russell Group is critical to the economic future of both countries.  The FTA provides an important opportunity to strengthen Australian and British cooperation in higher education and research, and to deliver tangible social and economic benefits to both nations.  The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the value of university research to the economy, health and security of our nation.  

Fostering stronger partnerships with like-minded countries through agreements such as the Australia-UK FTA and the trilateral AUKUS partnership is essential in this era of geopolitical change. The Go8 Russell Group alliance will cement and expand our bilateral partnerships, delivering world class education, cutting edge research outcomes and commercialisation opportunities to support economic growth and social wellbeing.”

Group of Eight - Russell Group joint letter

Notes to editor

The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities. We believe people and ideas are the key to meeting global challenges. Through world-class research and education we are helping to create a dynamic economy, stronger communities and a better future for the UK. 

The Group of Eight (Go8) comprises Australia’s leading research-intensive universities. It is focussed on, and is a leader in, influencing the development and delivery of long-term sustainable national higher education and research policy, and in developing elite international alliances and research partnerships.

The Go8 and the Russell Group are their country’s key representative body for world-class research-intensive universities, with the eight members of the Go8 accounting for more than 70 per cent of Australia’s university research activity, and, comparably, the 24 members of the Russell Group producing 68 per cent of the UK’s university research activity.

Between 2016-2020, Australia was the UK’s fifth most frequent academic collaborator, and the UK was Australia’s third most frequent academic collaborator.

Between 2016-2020, the Go8 produced 43,668 co-publications with a UK partner.

Between 2016-2020, the Go8 produced 29,123 co-publications with Russell Group universities.

Media Enquiries
Policy Enquiries

Follow us on Twitter