The Dawkins reforms had an immense impact on Australia’s higher education system.

Introduced in 1987 by the Commonwealth Minister for Education, the Hon John Dawkins, they caused much controversy but the shape of today’s higher education sector is largely the result of the reforms.

Griffith University, with the Universities of Melbourne, Sydney and South Australia, is taking part in an Australian Research Council Discovery Project study to assess the impact of Dawkins’ higher education changes.

As part of the study,Terry Hogan, the Vice Chancellor’s Principal Policy Officer is writing a case study on Griffith University.

He argues that of all the universities of the time, Griffith benefited most from the Dawkins reforms which saw the amalgamation of Colleges and Institutes of Advanced Education, some with the existing 19 Australian universities to form a network called the Unified National System.

“In 1987 Griffith was a small, single campus university of about 4300 students and a relatively narrow academic profile. Within four years it had been transformed into a multi-campus institution with triple the number of students and a comprehensive profile in teaching and learning,’’ he said.

He writes, “From a distance of 25 years it is clear that in 1987 the University was on the cusp of gradual but sustained growth in scale and academic profile as it sought to develop professional programs and broaden its research base.”

“If Dawkins sought any assurance that his model could successfully transform the Australian higher education sector, he needed to look no further than Griffith University.”

“On every measure Griffith in 1995 exemplified what Dawkins had set out to achieve in 1987 — a larger, more comprehensive university formed out of amalgamation with former CAEs with a more business-like orientation in its teaching and research roles and in corporate governance.”

He said while the University entered the Dawkins reform period as an adolescent, it emerged as a fully-fledge adult “retaining many of its formative principles but fundamentally changed as it advanced towards maturity”.

Mr Hogan’s case study will contribute to a larger volume with studies from partner universities to form a complete history of the Dawkins Reforms era.

The Origins and Effects of the Unified National System of Higher Education in Australia is expected to be completed in 2016.