4. Research

Section 4: Research


Principle 4 | Research: We will engage in conceptual and empirical research that advances our understanding about the role, dynamics, and impact of corporations in the creation of sustainable social, environmental and economic value.

UNSW Strategy 2025 positions the university as a world leader in research quality. We aspire to “be among the leading research-intensive universities worldwide, known for innovative, pioneering research with a global impact’. The Business School’s research activities contribute nationally and globally to our understanding of the nexus between corporations, societies, sustainable environments and economies. This work occurs at a number of levels including in the Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR), the Centre for Social Impact (CSI), and the Industrial Relations Research Centre (IRRC), as well as individually.

4.1 Research Quality & Impact

More than 350 academic staff of the Business School collectively produce outstanding research output in terms of both quality and impact. Our researchers are regularly awarded competitive grants and are closely engaged with government and industry.

4.1.1 Quality

The Business School’s performance rating has exceeded world standards for its research according to the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) 2018 Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) analysis. ERA is Australia’s national research evaluation framework, which identifies and promotes excellence across the full spectrum of research activity in Australia’s higher education institutions. Ratings are awarded out of five and UNSW was one of only four institutions to receive a rating of four or five in all research fields that were assessed, indicating performance ‘above’ or ‘well above world standard’.

UNSW’s average score of 4.8 was the highest in Australia. Highlights for the Business School included the following:

  • Economics scored straight fives in all specific subjects, maintaining its 2015 standing.
  • Business subjects including Finance and Accounting received a ‘well above world standard’ rating, and Marketing and Business and Management received a rating of 4 ‘above world standard’.
  • The two broad subject areas of Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services; and Economics obtained the highest rating of 5, indicating research ‘well above world standard’. As did the business-related fields of Statistics, Information Systems, Policy and Administration and Law.

The ERA results benchmark the country’s university research against international standards and are based on a range of factors including publications and citations, expert review and international benchmarks. More details about the overall UNSW results can be found on the UNSW Newsroom.

4.1.2 Impact and Engagement

On the back of these results, UNSW Sydney has topped all Australian universities for research that makes a highly positive impact on everyday lives. UNSW also rates highly when it comes to engaging with end-users outside of academia to translate research into benefits for society.

The ARC recently released its first national engagement and impact (EI) assessment of university research. The national assessment is incorporated into the ERA and shows how universities are translating their research into economic, social and environmental impacts, as well as industry and end-user engagement.

Highlights for the Business School include:

  • The field of research of Economics obtained a rating of high for Impact (based on the work of CEPAR, led by John Piggott – see section 4.2) and a medium rating for Engagement; and
  • The field of Commerce, Management, Tourism and Services obtained a rating of high for both Engagement and Impact. The Impact rating reflected the auditing work led by Roger Simnett (see also Auditing & Assurance Research Network, Section 7.2.2).

The E&I outcome shows that the Business School’s “well above world standard” research is having a significant impact beyond academia. You can find the full engagement and impact assessment on the ARC website and read about all of UNSW’s results on the UNSW Newsroom.

4.2 Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR)

Based in the Business School, with nodes at the Australian National University (ANU), Curtin University, University of Melbourne and University of Sydney, the ARC Centre of Excellence in Population Ageing Research (CEPAR) is producing world-class research on population ageing. CEPAR was the first social science centre to receive Centre of Excellence funding, in 2011, and it remains the only Centre of Excellence to be hosted by a Business School.

The Centre is a unique collaboration bringing together academia, government and industry to address one of the major social challenges of the twenty first century. It has developed a body of research that influences policy across the domains of aged care, retirement income, labour force participation and related consumer choices.

In January 2019, CEPAR published a new fact sheet – Aged Care Policy, Provision and Prospects – providing an overview of recent changes in aged care policy, industry, and labour force in Australia. The co-author and senior research fellow, Rafal Chomik said,

“Australia’s aged care system is evolving. It is where the challenges of population aging are most apparent and where policy choices have direct impact on the lives of Australians. Population aging means more people than ever will require care in Australia in the coming years. In this fact sheet we highlight research seeking to address these challenges and offer visual presentations of aged care needs and utilisation.”

Figure 2: Extract from CEPAR fact sheet, Aged Care Policy Provision and Prospects


Professor Hazel Bateman, Deputy Director of CEPAR, provides policy development advice to developing Asian economies in the context of the sustainability of pension systems with the advent of population ageing. These activities include:

  • Presenter and participant in a workshop – Effectiveness of Government Social Security Programs in Developing Asia – organized by the Asian Development Bank Institute (ADBI) and the Indonesian Ministry of Finance, Jakarta, Indonesia (7-9 March 2017). The key issue of concern was the design of sustainable public pensions for the aged.
  • Academic expert for the China Ageing Finance Forum (CAFF50), and keynote speaker China Ageing Finance Forum (CAFF50) Global Summit, Shenzhen, China, 21 May 2017. A key issue of concern is pension policy design in the context of a rapidly ageing population.
  • Presented research on new financial products to address the sustainability of the Chinese social security system at the 4th Annual Population Ageing and the Chinese Economy Workshop, Shanghai, 27-28 June.

In June 2019, CEPAR will be hosting the Economics of Ageing Workshop and Journal of the Economics of Ageingem> special issue on ‘Resources in Retirement’:

“A significant policy domain in the context of an ageing demographic revolves around the resources available for older cohorts as they withdraw from the labour force. In developed countries, there is major reliance on publicly funded retirement programs, along with increasing development of policies to support those requiring care in their last years … Emerging economies, many of which are ageing very rapidly while still facing relatively low per capita incomes, confront different issues. Large informal sectors mean that many people lie outside the reach of any formal program of support, while urbanisation means that traditional family support is breaking down. This workshop will address these issues.”

Almost at the other end of the spectrum, the 2018 United Nations Population Fund’s State of World Population report was compiled by an international team of academics led by CEPAR Chief Investigator, Peter McDonald, Professor of Demography at the University of Melbourne. The report, titled “The Power of Choice: Reproductive rights and the demographic transition”, documents the global fertility transition and the slowing of global population growth over the last 50 years – “one of humankind’s most important and life-changing achievements.”

The report highlights the importance of reproductive rights being extended to all women and men. “Each country needs to define the mix of services and resources it requires to uphold reproductive rights for all citizens, ensuring that no one is left behind, and to dismantle social, economic and institutional and geographic obstacles that prevent couples and individuals from deciding freely and responsibly the number and timing of pregnancies,” says Peter McDonald.

4.3 Centre for Social Impact (CSI)

The Business School is also home to the multi-university CSI, which brings together business, government, philanthropic and not-for-profit sectors in a collaborative effort to build community capacity and facilitate social innovation. CSI aims to catalyse positive social change, through transformational research and education, to enable others to achieve social impact.

CSI’s work on the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) included a report entitled “Competition and collaboration between service providers in the NDIS“. The report aims to promote understanding of the impact that introducing a market based competitive environment may have on collaboration and collegiately between service providers and the flow-on effects for people with a disability and their families. The work has generated a range of knowledge translation pieces in outlets such as The Mandarin (news and resources for Australia’s public sector leaders) and received coverage in Probono News and The Sydney Morning Herald. It has also been used by the Australian Productivity Commission in its review of the NDIS.

Financial Resilience in Australia is an annual report produced by CSI, in partnership with the National Australia Bank. Research for the 2018 report found that 2.1 million people in Australia are experiencing financial stress, but that, overall, more Australians are becoming financially resilient, with more than one in three Australians feeling financially secure. This work has led to a better understanding of the role of no-interest and low-interest loan schemes to Australians on a low income.

Financial security and the influence of economic resources, CSI Report, Dec 2018.

In 2018 the CSI research team was awarded the Business School’s 2018 PRME Award for Social Engagement. The award was given recognition of the research ream’s outstanding contributions to A Just Society (a Strategy 2025 pillar) and sustained passion and commitment to furthering responsible management education and /or research. It recognises fostering and enriching a culture in which sustainability and social responsibility are valued and enacted. The awardees were: Axelle Marjolin, Prof Kristy Muir, Dr Abigail Powell, Dr Jack Noone and Dr Megan Weier.

4.4 Industrial Relations Research Centre (IRRC)

IRRC’s research activities have contributed consistently to promoting better understanding of how corporations can contribute to the creation of sustainable social, environmental and economic value. This includes Hon Associate Professor PN (Raja) Junankar’s research into the causes and consequences of unemployment in OECD countries; immigration and the Australian economy; ageing: labour market, health, superannuation, and housing; and informal labour markets in India.

Emeritus Professor Michael Quinlan is a global authority on worker mobilisation, and workplace health and safety. In September 2018, a conference was held at UNSW to celebrate his role, not only in publication, but in undertaking inquiries, investigations and audits for governments in Australia and New Zealand on safety in the trucking industry, mining and WHS regulatory regimes. He has served as an expert on a range of government advisory bodies in Australia and New Zealand as well as helping to prepare reports on WHS for the World Health Organisation, European Commission, European Agency on Safety and Health at Work and International Labour Organisation.

In 2017 and 2018 Hon Associate Professor Anne Junor undertook was awarded funding by the then Office of Learning & Teaching Strategic Priority Commissioned Grant program, which supports the examination of key issues in the Australian higher education system. Anne investigated the effectiveness of an Australian approach to ameliorating precarity in academic work.

The Centre’s exemplary research output is listed in Section 8.

4.5 Research Students

Business School research students have been placed in important academic, government and industry positions. There are currently more than 150 research students from all over the world studying with us. Just a few examples of their PRME related research contributions follow.

For her PhD, Hien Hoang (2017) investigates the assurance engagements incorporating both financial and non-financial information and their impact on investment decision making. Hien’s primary research interests are in the area of behavioural decision making in CSR and Integrated Reporting context. Hien is currently teaching financial and management accounting at the undergraduate level.

Jaco Fourie began his PhD in 2017 as part of the German Garment Supply Chain Governance Project team. The project is funded by the Volkswagen Stiftung as part of the “Europe and Global Challenges” Program and seeks to understand the challenges of improving labour and environmental standards in global production networks. Jaco’s research of modern slavery and supply chains, outlined below, will illuminate a serious issue related to corporate behaviour and human rights abuse.

Public regulation of labour standards: the emergence, design and consequences of supply chain disclosure legislation

Combating human rights and labour abuses in global supply chains (hereafter GSCs) is one of the critical sustainability challenges of our time. Since prevailing regulatory regimes are often ineffective, state-based supply chain disclosure legislation have been enacted. This research explores the emergence, design and consequences of disclosure legislation, focusing on the Australian Modern Slavery Act (2018) at national. and firm levels. It seeks to extend theory relating to policy change processes and to investigate how variation in legislative design and context have impacted firm compliance.


Dr Mengyi Xu was awarded the prize for Best CEPAR PhD thesis in 2017 for her thesis on Retirement savings and housing under the supervision of CEPAR Chief Investigator Professor Michael Sherris. “Mengyi’s thesis addressed an important issue in retirement research both pre and post retirement, filling important gaps in the actuarial literature,” said Michael. The research provides new insights and has important implications for investment strategies of defined contribution funds.

Nicole Anne Hickey is currently enrolled as an MPhil student, and hopes that her thesis will benefit the Aged Care Industry. She is a Director and Operations Manager of Daughterly Care Community Services, a not-for-profit charity responsible for providing In-Home Care to those aged individuals living with Dementia in the NSW community. Nicole-Anne is responsible for 270 staff and over 561k hours of care being provided in the community each year.

4.6 Research Output

During this reporting period 2017-2019, staff of the Business School produced over 135 publications, including book chapters, journal articles, reports and conference papers, addressing themes relevant to the principles of responsible management education. These include corporate social responsibility, integrated reporting, business ethics, social responsibility, workplace wellbeing and inclusion, financial wellbeing, green information systems and others. See our Research List (Section 8) for comprehensive details.

Members of our faculty have also made contributions through writing for The Conversation and Business Think, the Business School’s online ‘magazine’ that translates and communicates Business School research to a broad range of end-users.