Western Australia's universities look set to become an election battleground, with Opposition Leader Mark McGowan flagging a plan to give the state's seats of learning more financial and educational freedom.
In an early state election gambit, the Labor leader said there was a need for urgent reform to cut the red tape holding back the state's universities.
Mr McGowan said his plan would give colleges the power to create and run companies, freeing up more money for them to become innovation hubs and sell themselves as the smart state to the massive Asian educational market.
"I want to expand our service exports, especially education," Mr McGowan told a business function this afternoon.
"At present, WA educational exports are worth almost $1.2 billion a year but they could be much more.
"Red tape is one of the biggest disincentives to innovation and it's hampering our universities' ability to attract finance and gives them no security over how they are allowed to develop their land."
New laws proposed by the party would allow universities security of land tenure while giving them the freedom to generate income on the back of that, similar to Victoria's recent reforms.
"We will modernise the legislation binding WA universities to give them both security of land tenure and the ability to undertake commercial activity to create hubs of innovation and enterprise," Mr McGowan said.
"We will give our universities the tools to be entrepreneurial with their land ... to generate income that can be reinvested into all manner of research and innovation."