29 March 2019

The Universities Australia Higher Education Conference is the signature event on the Australian higher education calendar.

This year’s conference, “Degrees of Change”, took a closer look at universities as changemakers and their profound influence on individuals, communities, nations and economies.

1,000 delegates, 88 speakers, 18 major sponsors, 32 exhibition booths featured at this year’s special two-day gathering in Canberra.


French higher education minister Frederique Vidal opened the conference with a strong and detailed defence of university research in a time of 'fake news'. An edited version of her speech appears in this edition.

Professor Margaret Gardner gave an impassioned address at the National Press Club, making the case for universities as drivers of civic transformation and the public good. A full version of her speech appears in this edition. 

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A highlight in the conference schedule, this year’s conference dinner at parliament house stood out because of the personal stories shared by Dr Liz Allen from the ANU and Ms Karlie Noon, Masters candidate at the ANU. Dr Allen and Ms Noon made an unforgettable impression, reminding us of the power of education. And edited extract and full audio of the discussion is available in this edition.  


The dinner also announced the winners of Universities Australia’s annual Pitch It Clever competition. The competition that challenges early career researchers to clearly communicate their work reached new heights this year with 109 entries. The winning entries told the stories of research that will spare us the dentist drill, help prevent babies from drowning and how parents can better support in their children’s sporting endeavours.

Education Minister Dan Tehan and Shadow Education Minister Tanya Plibersek shared their thoughts on Australia's higher education sector. As always, we thank both the Minister and Shadow Minister for setting aside time to attend the conference and to share their thoughts on the value of universities to Australia.

This year’s conference also featured excellent presentations on university-industry collaboration. Professor Vishaal Kishore (Deputy CEO, The Actuator), Ms Ruma Balasubramanian (Chief Transformation Officer Asia Pacific, Japan & China, Cisco), Mr John Paitaridis (CEO, Optus Business), and Ms Tanya Constable PSM (CEO, Minerals Council of Australia) joined Curtin University Vice-Chancellor Professor Deborah Terry to explore how universities can partner with industry – and vice versa. Sharing their own experiences, the panel members explored what good partnerships look like, and what we can expect to see more of in the future.


In a hilarious closing plenary, PWC’s Russel Howcroft and THINKERBELL’s Adam Ferrier reformed their double act from ABC's Gruen to explore the importance of creativity. With some excellent mock pitches, they demonstrated how universities will always be integral to Australia's future – even as artificial intelligence evolves.

The dates for next year’s conference are already set so don’t forget to block out 26 to 27 February 2020 in your diaries. 

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