2.1 Role and functions


The ARC is established under the Australian Research Council Act 2001 (ARC Act). The ARC Act provides details in relation to:

  • the functions of the ARC
  • the establishment of designated committees by the responsible Minister
  • the CEO and ARC staff
  • reporting requirements
  • funding of research including the funding cap, funding assistance, funding rules and the
    ARC research endowment fund.

The ARC Act is updated annually through an amendment bill, which allows continued funding under the National Competitive Grants Program (NCGP).

The ARC Act was last amended in June 2018.

Role and functions

The ARC administers the NCGP, assesses the quality, engagement and impact of research, and advises the Australian Government on research matters.

Funding the highest quality research

Through the NCGP, the ARC supports excellent research and research training across all disciplines. The NCGP comprises two programs—Discovery and Linkage—under which the ARC funds a range of complementary schemes that provide funding for fundamental and applied research, research training, research collaboration and research infrastructure.

Funding is awarded on the basis of a competitive peer review process.

Assessing the quality, engagement and impact of research

The ARC administers two evaluation frameworks to assess the quality, engagement and impact of research.

Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) is a comprehensive evaluation of the quality of all research produced in Australian universities against national and international benchmarks. In 2018 the ARC is conducting the fourth ERA evaluation following evaluations in 2010, 2012 and 2015.

As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) the Australian Government announced the establishment of an Engagement and Impact (EI) assessment of Australian university research. The assessment will assess the engagement of researchers with end-users, and show how universities are translating their research into economic, social, environmental and other impacts. The ARC is conducting the inaugural EI assessment in 2018.

Providing advice on research matters

The ARC provides advice to the responsible Minister on matters related to the portfolio, including research and research training, research partnerships and the quality, engagement and impact of research in Australia.


In 2017–18 the ARC:

  • managed a total estimated budget of $789.7 million, of which approximately $758.1 million was provided to support research through the NCGP
  • had an average staffing level of 124 employees.


The ARC’s key stakeholders are the Australian Government, Australian universities, partner organisations, industry, government, not-for-profit, business, publicly funded research agencies, research peak bodies, the global research sector and Australian taxpayers.

Within the Australian Government, the ARC works closely with a number of other agencies. It works collaboratively with the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) on a range of research matters including the administration of competitive grants schemes, the review of the Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research, and the administration of the Australian Research Integrity Committee. While the ARC funds research across all disciplines (with the exception of clinical medicine), the NHMRC provides funding for all areas of research relevant to human health and medicine.

The ARC also works closely with its portfolio agency, the Department of Education and Training, and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Areas of common interest include implementation of the Australian Government’s NISA initiatives, international engagement, and mechanisms of government support for building Australia’s research capacity, for example, through funding for infrastructure, research training and collaboration.