Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia methodology

This is not the latest release View the latest release
Reference period

Explanatory notes


1 The statistics presented in this release have been compiled from data collected in the Survey of Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations for 2016.

2 The Survey of R&D, Higher Education is a biennial collection based on a calendar year reference period.


3 R&D, as collected by the ABS, is defined in accordance with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) standard as "creative and systematic work undertaken in order to increase the stock of knowledge - including knowledge of humankind, culture and society - and to devise new applications of available knowledge".

4 For a more comprehensive interpretation of the definition of R&D activity, see the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008 (cat. no.1297.0) or refer to the OECD publication Frascati Manual 2015: Guidelines for Collecting and Reporting Data on Research and Experimental Development.

5 Data providers report and self classify R&D expenditure based on their interpretation of OECD and ABS definitions and classifications. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct and consistent interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies. See also the Non-Sampling Error and Revisions sections of the Technical Note under the Explanatory Notes tab.

Scope and coverage

6 The OECD definition of the higher education sector encompasses universities and other institutions of post-secondary education regardless of their source of finance or legal status. The scope of the ABS R&D survey is based on the OECD definition, but excludes colleges of Technical and Further Education. For the 2016 survey, 42 Australian higher education institutions were in scope and reported for this collection.

7 Intramural expenditure, which is defined as expenditure for R&D performed by in scope institutions during the reference period irrespective of the source of funds, is included in the survey. Expenditure made outside the institution but in support of intramural R&D is included. For further information, refer to the OECD Frascati Manual 2015. Intramural expenditure includes research performed by institutions:

  • as a participant in unincorporated Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs); and
  • on behalf of other legal entities where the institution maintains full management and control of the project.

8 R&D performed on an institution's campus, where the R&D is controlled by other legal entities, is excluded from the survey. The R&D performed by these entities will be in scope of the relevant R&D sector (business, government or private non-profit).

9 R&D performed overseas by Australian higher education institutions is included. Due to the very small amount of overseas expenditure, it is not separately identified.

Location of R&D

10 Data shown in this release represent the main campus or head office location of the reporting institution, with the exception of the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), which is part of the University of New South Wales but is shown against the Australian Capital Territory.

Australian and New Zealand standard research classification

11 Type of Activity, Fields of Research and Socio-economic Objective statistics presented in this release have been collected and compiled based on the Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008 (cat. no.1297.0).

Derived expenditure estimates

12 Total cost of R&D undertaken is equivalent to direct expenditure plus indirect (overhead) expenditure.

13 Institutions were required to indicate whether overheads had been included in reported data. In cases where data did not include overheads, an estimate was calculated by either:

  • the institution identifying the value of R&D related overhead costs to be apportioned across relevant projects/schools; or
  • the ABS, using a methodology agreed to by institutions and Universities Australia.

Gross domestic product (GDP) and gross state product (GSP)

14 The most recent GDP and GSP values available were used to calculate the R&D expenditure/GDP and R&D expenditure/GSP ratios presented in this issue. These values are referenced in the table below and have been revised from those used to calculate ratios in previous issues.

Gross domestic product, current prices

GDP1 085 1451 258 3021 414 2191 533 8821 621 4041 758 130

Source: Australian National Accounts: National Income, Expenditure and Product, December 2017 (cat. no. 5206.0), released 7 March 2018.

Gross state product, current prices

2014-15517 886371 609295 33699 132251 15027 62124 45034 220
2016-17576 716406 525326 995103 325247 70529 28925 98438 187

Source: Australian National Accounts: State Accounts, 2016-17 (cat. no. 5220.0), released 17 November 2017.

15 GDP is estimated by the ABS according to the international standards System of National Accounts, 2008 (2008 SNA) and is not directly comparable to GDP for countries where these standards have not been applied.

16 While statistics presented in this issue relate to the 2016 calendar year, financial year GDP and GSP data are used to ensure consistency with ratios published in other ABS R&D releases which use a financial year as the reporting period.

Chain volume measures

17 The chain volume measures appearing in this release are annually reweighted chain Laspeyres indexes referenced to the current price values in a chosen reference year (currently 2016). All price values for previous years are re-expressed in (i.e. based on) the prices of the current year and linked together to form continuous time series. They are formed in a multi-stage process of which the major steps are described in Section 15 of the Information Paper: Australian National Accounts, Introduction of Chain Volume Measures and Price Indexes (cat. no. 5248.0).

R&D deflators

18 With the implementation of the 2008 SNA, deflators used to calculate the chain volume measure of expenditure on R&D were revised to better capture changes in the unit value of labour used in the production of R&D services, and to increase and refine the number of products included in the deflators. The revised deflators have been used for Higher Education R&D statistics since the 2008 survey cycle.


    19 Where figures have been rounded, discrepancies may occur between the sum of the component items and totals.

    Upcoming releases

    20 Upcoming releases of R&D statistics include:

    Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia, 2016-17 (cat. no. 8109.0), scheduled for release in July 2018.


    23 The ABS acknowledges the ongoing contribution made by the higher education institutions selected for the Survey of R&D, Higher Education.

    24 ABS publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.

    ABS data available on request

    25 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.

    Technical note - data quality

    Non-sampling error

    1 Non-sampling errors may arise as a result of errors in the reporting, recording or processing of data. These errors can be introduced through inadequacies in the questionnaire, treatment of non-response, inaccurate reporting by data providers, errors in the application of survey procedures, incorrect recording of answers and errors in data capture and processing.

    2 The extent to which non-sampling error affects the results is difficult to measure. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by careful design and testing of the collection instrument, the use of efficient operating procedures and systems, and the use of appropriate methodologies.

    3 When interpreting the statistics in this release, the reliability and comparability of the estimates may be affected by the following specific non-sampling errors:

    • Many institutions provided estimates due to a lack of separately recorded data on R&D activity.
    • Data were self-classified by institutions to Type of Activity, Fields of Research and Socio-economic Objective at the time of reporting. Some institutions may have experienced difficulty in classifying their R&D projects. The ABS makes every effort to ensure correct and consistent interpretation and reporting of these data by applying consistent processing methodologies.
    • The estimation method for R&D related overhead costs varied across institutions and reference periods.


    4 In the event of new information being identified and revisions made, revised figures will be indicated by a footnote. Revisions must be taken into consideration when interpreting results, particularly when comparing estimates over time.


    Show all

    Quality declaration - summary

    Institutional environment







    Show all

    Back to top of the page