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Analysis and advice for education policy and delivery

Australia’s premier education analysis and advisory team

Our mission is to influence and empower policymakers and institutions to drive meaningful improvement in outcomes for individuals and communities through education.

Our work

We conduct analysis and provide advice that resonates with policymakers, practitioners, learners and their families. Our work is based on an in-depth knowledge of the education sector – from early childhood through to schooling, vocational training and higher education – and a comprehensive understanding of the nation’s dynamic policy and regulatory environment.

Our highly experienced partners and directors lead a dynamic team of multi-disciplinary professionals, with backgrounds spanning labour market economics, econometrics, program evaluation, teaching, the public service, law and think tanks. Our team blends policy researchers, strategy advisers, quantitative experts proficient in model building and in drawing insights from education and labour market data, and qualitative experts with deep expertise in social research, as well as developmental, process and impact evaluations. We are part of a global network of experts in education policy and collaborate with leading academic partners, including on research and innovation.

Since 2008, we have supported state and federal governments in the development and review of major education policies and advised universities and other education institutes on matters core to their offering, pricing and workforce strategies.

We are committed to and value working collaboratively with clients and the learners and communities they serve. We know that educators and education leaders, families and children, apprentices and students are at the heart of all endeavours to improve the performance and equity of education systems. We are deliberate, thoughtful and ethical in ensuring they are at the heart of everything we do.

Our capabilities

Our team of education experts apply the latest quantitative and qualitative techniques across all our work. We regularly publish in academic journals, speak at key summits and author thought leadership reports.

We offer the following capabilities:

  • Evaluation: a suite of policy and program evaluation offerings spanning developmental, process and impact evaluations, supported by strong primary and secondary data collection capabilities, and advanced qualitative and quantitative techniques, leading to applied evaluative insights.
  • Funding model design, pricing and costing analysis: the development of funding, pricing and costing models and analysis informed by deep sectoral expertise and empirical methods, including econometric methods, benchmarking and efficiency frontier analysis.
  • Cost-benefit, economic impact and economic contribution analysis: rigorous analysis of programs, policies and other initiatives to inform government and business decisions, drawing on our proprietary economic models, including the Deloitte Access Economics Computable General Equilibrium model of the Australian economy.
  • Research: conducting studies on effective classroom practice, including the development of resources and tools to support students with disability, students experiencing engagement challenges, and students for whom English is an additional language.
  • Strategy and policy review: practical and evidence-based advice on education strategy and policy, underpinned by detailed analytical frameworks and informed by consultation with policymakers and target groups.
  • Model development and testing: development of user-friendly, dynamic models used by policymakers and businesses for strategic projects or for ongoing operations, with the capability to be delivered in Excel, R, Stata, SAS or other analytical packages, supported by in-depth user-guides and hands-on training and ongoing technical support.
  • Demand forecasting: robust empirical analysis and market research to inform projections of demand for education services, for different student types (including international students), levels and fields of education, and across different geographies.

We ensure all our analysis is tailored to the unique circumstances of each assignment and geared towards transferring knowledge to our clients.

By thoughtfully combining our renowned and ever-expanding capabilities, we are constantly extending the depth and richness of the advice we provide.

Our leadership team

  • Lachlan Smirl, Partner (Melbourne)
  • Matt Wright, Partner (Melbourne)
  • James Blake, Partner (Brisbane)
  • Will Gort, Director (Melbourne)
  • Tom Betts, Director (Melbourne)
  • Rosie Bridge, Director (Melbourne)
  • Kate Wilson, Associate Director (Sydney)
  • Sam Brain, Associate Director (Melbourne)
  • Mark Dahdah, Associate Director (Melbourne)
  • Pola Orlowska, Associate Director (Melbourne)
  • Kim Liu, Associate Director (Sydney)

Our experience

Deloitte Access Economics has a deep and contemporary understanding of the Australian education sector, having advised governments - at the state and federal level - on the most significant reforms over recent years. We are proud of our commitment to providing governments with timely, innovative and practical analysis that directly informs policy development and refinement.

The vast majority of our work is not publicly released. Where our reports are available to the public, links are provided.

Since 2008, Deloitte Access Economics has been at the forefront of early childhood education policy and funding analysis. We have undertaken studies, evaluations and reviews in relation to federal and state government funding for early childhood services, national early childhood policy and regulation, state government policy initiatives, and sectoral modelling.

Our publicly available work includes:

  • analysis on the impact of aspects of the Jobs for Families Child Care Package on Indigenous Communities
  • an evaluation of the national Early Learning Languages Australia program. 

Other recent experience includes:

  • developing a framework to guide Queensland’s future investment in early childhood, informed by robust analysis and modelling of the early childhood landscape, as well as over 70 consultations with kindergarten and early childhood service providers and participating families
  • conducting over 300 in-depth consultations with a variety of early childhood service providers to inform a review of the early childhood Legacy Grants Program in New South Wales
  • drawing on our knowledge of the drivers of demand in the early childhood sector to conduct occupancy analysis and demand modelling for childcare providers, including exploring the linkages between economic recovery and occupancy levels in early childhood services
  • contributing to the design and refinement of funded three-year-old kindergarten/preschool policy across multiple jurisdictions, through policy options analysis, cost modelling, workforce strategy development and infrastructure advice. 

Our team has a longstanding history in the early childhood policy sphere, commencing with our work supporting the introduction of the landmark National Quality Framework through to the current day. On this journey, we have worked closely with state and federal governments, the national Early Childhood Policy Group, peak bodies (including the Secretariat of National Aboriginal and Islander Child Care and the Early Learning Association Australia), early childhood providers, regulators, educators and families.
We are committed to providing evidence-informed advice to support this pivotal sector, which helps shape the future trajectories of our children and – ultimately – our broader economic and social wellbeing.
Key contacts: James Blake, Rosie Bridge and Lachlan Smirl

Deloitte Access Economics is a recognised leader in evaluating and informing school improvement and reform. This reputation is built on a decade of influential schooling policy and practice reviews, the development of school funding models, and strategic and program evaluations. This includes in-depth investigations into the experiences of learners facing diverse barriers to engaging with education, and the practices, policy and funding settings required to lift outcomes for all students.
Notably, we have provided analysis and advice to support the Review of Funding for Schooling (the Gonski Review). We have led several multi-year strategic evaluations focused on school improvement and system performance (engaging with hundreds of school leaders, teachers, parents and students across Australia) and published leading analytical research into the drivers of school and system performance and improvement.

Our experience includes:

  • completing a seminal five-year strategic evaluation of school reform and the impacts of the Education State reform agenda for the Victorian Government (in partnership with the Centre for International Research of Education Systems at Victoria University)
  • evaluating the Framework for Improving Student Outcomes and the School Review model for Victorian Government schools
  • conducting a review of practice to support student engagement in Queensland Government schools, including extensive engagement with school leaders and teachers across the state
  • estimating the economic impact of improving school quality in Australia
  • undertaking significant original research on the drivers of quality in Australian schools and the drivers of learning outcomes of students from different backgrounds to inform national schooling policy. 

Our team are experts on matters of school funding and workforce policy, having conducted major reviews of school resourcing models and workforce strategy for several jurisdictions in recent years. We have supported a number of schooling jurisdictions on the development and refinement of their models of supply and demand, and the development of strategies to support the status, attraction and quality of the teaching profession.
We also routinely partner with leading sectoral experts, including the global schooling system leader and expert Michael Fullan and leading Australian academic Professor Stephen Lamb in delivering strategic evaluations for our clients across Australia.
Key contacts: Will Gort, Rosie Bridge and Matt Wright

Over the past decade, Deloitte Access Economics has led several major policy reviews and evaluations in the vocational education and training (VET) sector. Our deep experience includes foundational studies of the costs of delivering education and training, extending to pricing and subsidy analysis, and funding model design.

Our experience includes:

  • undertaking a review of quality assurance in Victoria’s VET system
  • evaluating the Victorian Skills First reforms for the Victorian training and TAFE sector
  • reviewing the New South Wales Government’s Smart and Skilled reform of the VET system
  • conducting an analysis of base costings for VET delivery in Queensland and New South Wales
  • evaluating the Queensland Government’s Skilling Queenslanders for Work program
  • completing a review of VET student loans for the Australian Government.

Our more recent work includes a series of foundational research pieces for the National Skills Commission and associated reforms arising from the 2019 Joyce Review into Australia’s VET system:

  • informing the design and implementation of pricing and funding models for VET in Australia
  • benchmarking of prices and funding levels for VET qualifications across Australia
  • measuring the costs and benefits of reforms to increase the relevance and use of Australia’s VET system
  • developing Skills Organisation pilots and options for future expansion of the network of Skills Organisations in Australia.

More broadly, Deloitte Access Economics is recognised as a leader on skills needs in the Australian economy. For example, our recent Building the Lucky Country report focused on the future of work.

Key contact: Thomas Betts and Matt Wright

Deloitte Access Economics is a leader in research and policy development in higher education nationally. We conducted modelling and forecasting to inform the Bradley Review, the Higher Education Base Funding Review and analysed the cost and funding implications of the 2014 Budget announcements for the Australian Government.
More recently, we have led major reviews into costing and funding for the Australian Government, including:

We have also published a range of thought leadership on the future of tertiary education in Australia, including the potential of short-form credentials and delivery of lifelong learning. This work and our sector leadership is showcased each year through our role as the lead sponsor of the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit.
Alongside our work on higher education policy, we work directly with tertiary education providers and peak bodies on a range of issues. This includes support in strategy development, analytics, pricing and commercial optimisation. We support universities to better leverage available data to understand and measure their performance, including analysis of student preferences and market opportunities to identify areas for strategic growth.
Key contact: Will Gort, Ben Lodewijks and Lachlan Smirl

Our expert team has been at the forefront of international education research and policy in Australia for several years. We helped set the agenda for the Austrade Australian International Education 2025 strategy and roadmap, providing seminal modelling and research on the opportunities facing the sector.

We advise Australian governments, peak bodies and providers on a range of matters related to international student demand, the value of international education to the economy, and approaches to support the sustainable growth of the sector through source market diversification.

Our experience includes:

  • estimating the value of international education to Australia in a significant research report for the Australian Government
  • conducting research into source market diversity in the Australian education sector for the Australian Government
  • advising a number of Australian universities on their strategies to international student pricing, using detailed data on demand drivers
  • supporting Trade Investment Queensland with a number of research and analytical projects over the past five years, contributing to the development of Queensland’s flagship sector strategy - International Education and Training Strategy to Advance Queensland (2016-2026).

More recently, we have been at the forefront of supporting the response to the COVID-19 crisis and its impact on international education. As part of this, we have worked with a number of Australian governments on strategies to support providers to manage the impact on international student demand, and strategies to support growth through the crisis. This has included significant work with the Australian Government to provide a detailed understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on the sector, and options for the path to recovery.

Key contact: James Blake and Lachlan Smirl 

Our inclusive education team supports policymakers to develop programs and policies across all stages of education, in a way that promotes equity, reflects effective practice, and draws on a contemporary, rights-based understanding of education. Our practice predominantly focuses on the inclusion of students with disability, however the underlying principles that guide effective practice and policy for these groups are relevant for all learners.

Our work in the area of inclusive education includes:

  • conducting a wide-ranging review into education for students with disability in Queensland state schools, drawing on over 100 school and family focus groups and an online survey featuring close to 3,000 responses, which informed a state-wide disability response plan
  • delivering a series of workshops with teachers, principals, students, professional organisations, unions, peaks and advocacy groups to inform the development of the Victorian Department of Education inclusive education policy statement and supporting resources
  • synthesising 16 previous reviews and inquiries into the experience of students with disability, separately examining over 1,000 submissions to these reviews using qualitative analytical software, with over 340 recommendations categorised and mapped across eight policy areas
  • analysing the different approaches and inputs required to provide effective practice in English as an Additional Language program delivery in Victorian government schools and English language centres
  • undertaking consultation, analysis and filmmaking support to refine the Job Well Done resource package
  • evaluating specialist education facilities including the Monash Children’s Hospital School and a government sector flexible learning option. 

We have worked extensively to build a strong professional network of academics, advocates, public policy experts, and leaders in public administration at the most senior levels. In particular, we have a longstanding professional partnership with Professor Roger Slee, who is visiting Professor in the Centre for Disability Studies, Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of South Australia. Professor Slee is the founding editor of the International Journal of Inclusive Education and was previously Deputy Director-General in the Queensland Department of Education. This contributes to an unparalleled sectoral understanding of the policy environment, and the enablers of and barriers to inclusive education.
These professional networks have been leveraged to inform a range of projects. Examples of our interaction with experts include formal partnerships, inclusion in consultation processes and focus groups, and informal consultation with international advisers.
Key contact: Sam Brain and Lachlan Smirl