from the Chair and the Chief Executive

Margaret Gardner.jpg Belinda Robinson HS.jpg









Welcome to our third HIGHER ED.ITION for 2017.

Wasn’t it terrific to see NSW Education Minister Rob Stokes’ strong defence of the value of universities and university education this week? For those who haven’t read his full statement, we’ve included it in this edition. 

Last fortnight, the Nick Xenophon Team announced it would not support the Government’s $2.8 billion funding cut to universities and students. The crossbench party’s statement was the final piece in the Senate puzzle on the current legislation. But their statement built on the picture of the last six months – and we applaud every MP and Senator who grappled carefully with the detail of the legislation over that time.

Opposition Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek and universities spokesperson Terri Butler, Greens education spokesperson Sarah Hanson-Young, and Senator Jacqui Lambie were first out of the blocks when the cuts were unveiled. Senator Derryn Hinch was also on the record in recent months. And, in the final week, One Nation Leader Pauline Hanson voiced her concerns publicly about the impact of the cuts on regional communities. We thank them all. In the wake of the announcement, Universities Australia reiterated our strong desire to work closely with Government in the months ahead and urged it to shelve once and for all the prospect of cuts. We welcome the opportunity to do so with Education Minister Simon Birmingham, who also spoke about the many benefits that international education brings to Australia in a speech to the Senate last fortnight. 

In a timely set of observations from across the globe, Kings College London Principal and President Professor Ed Byrne pens an opinion piece for HIGHER ED.ITION. He writes that funding cuts would imperil Australia’s excellent university system, which is rightly the envy of so many other countries

Over the past six months, at the request of our members, we have marshalled clear evidence that university funding cuts are not in Australia’s interests. And we have reminded all Australians about what is truly at risk. The toll cuts would take on individual universities and their communities. The impact cuts would have on key STEM disciplines at the heart of the Government’s science and innovation agenda. The erosion of university access to Australians from disadvantaged backgrounds. The threat to Australia’s $28.6 billion in export earnings and the vast cultural benefit that flows from educating international students. The damage cuts would inflict on educating Australia’s future workforce and the university research breakthroughs that deliver new sources of income for Australia. And the fact that Australia spends a smaller share of our national income on its public investment in tertiary education than countries like Estonia, Turkey and Latvia. These evidence-based arguments are compelling, as demonstrated by recent polling which showed the majority of voters Australia-wide oppose cuts to university funding.

In the face of this threat, Australian universities spoke as one. And in our momentum-gathering social media campaign – #stopunicuts – people in university communities added their voices. They included UniSA student Chris Mills, from the regional South Australian town of Whyalla, a former steelworker studying for a new career in social work. He wants to help his community through a time of uncertainty as traditional industries face new threats

Also in this edition, University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Caroline McMillen writes that the proposed changes to enabling places in the legislation would have been a “quiet catastrophe”. She fears it would have saddled some of the nation’s most vulnerable students with higher debt.

And University of New England Vice-Chancellor Professor Annabelle Duncan highlights profound changes being wrought in the economies of the world. She writes on how Australia’s universities are reshaping course offerings for people who want to upskill without leaving their job.

Finally, HIGHER ED.ITION also caught up with one of the new chairs of the Universities Australia Executive Women group, Professor Marcia Devlin of La Trobe University, for an interview on the group’s detailed program of work towards gender equity in Australian universities

We hope you enjoy all of the contributions in this edition.

Until next time,


Professor Margaret Gardner and Belinda Robinson
Chair and Chief Executive
Universities Australia


june // 2015



Q&A with Universities Australia Executive Women's Group
The lack of women in leadership roles is an issue across many industries and sectors – from top-listed companies to the not-for-profit sector.
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The importance of both universities and TAFE
It is a mistake to talk down the value of universities in a populist attempt to pit the higher education and vocational education sectors against each other.
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Ed Byrne Thumb
To thrive in the future, our clever country must back its universities
In the present environment, when university leaders speak about university funding, cries of self-interest spring up from some quarters of the political arena and beyond.
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Caroline McMillen Thumb
Averting a quiet catastrophe – why changes to enabling pathways would have been a mistake
Over the past months there has been a concerted focus by universities across Australia to highlight the potential of the Government’s higher education package to derail Australia’s productivity and economic growth agenda.
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Flexibility the key to uni study for people whose jobs are changing rapidly
The Australian economy is currently transforming. We are moving away from a resource-based economy while simultaneously dealing with the automation of many tasks previously performed by people.
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Universities in a Next Gen World – UA Higher Education Conference wrap-up
The Universities Australia Higher Education Conference was held in March with a record turnout of almost 1000 delegates.
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Equipping Australia to manage economic transition: the missing elements in Budget 2017
Federal Budgets can be as noteworthy for what they do not include as for what they do. The Budget handed down by Treasurer Scott Morrison on 9 May is no exception.
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At the heart of the community: revitalising regions through higher education
The pathways to socioeconomic improvement in a post-industrial age are difficult to predict.
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Minds rubbing on minds: Why people are at the heart of innovation
I’ve spent two decades talking about innovation, and often it feels like Groundhog Day.
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We need to tell the success stories in university-industry collaboration
During 30 years of involvement with Australian research, I have heard countless gloomy tales of low rates of research-industry engagement, and of missed opportunities to translate research into outcomes for society.
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Reflecting the long story of Australia in our universities
Reflecting the long story of Australia in our universities
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Q&A with Professor Barney Glover – chair Universities Australia
Q&A with Professor Barney Glover – chair Universities Australia
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How international education is advancing Australia’s interests
In early February, the latest trade figures confirmed that Australia’s international education exports remain on the rise.
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We can’t afford to lose the Education Investment Fund
A decade ago, it was hard to keep local health workers in the central Queensland city of Rockhampton.
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Our world-class research helps build a stronger future
During a round of golf on a visit to Australia in 1963, Queen Elizabeth II caught the attention of journalists. They noticed that the Queen, unlike all the other players on Royal Canberra Golf Course that day, wasn’t covered in flies.
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Q&A with Austrade Chief Executive Professor Stephanie Fahey
She should know, she use to help run one. The first female head of Austrade has experience in education, as well as in the commercial world, equipping her to understand how education and research underpins Australia’s trade mission.
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Equity is no longer an option – it’s an imperative
Seismic shifts in our economy and our society are here. Our globalised economy has seen technology disrupt jobs, industries and markets.
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Be careful what you wish for: why the market-based demand driven system is better than the alternatives.
From time to time over the past few years, we’ve heard the occasional call to end the demand driven system for university places.
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Is the TEF good public policy? Probably not.
The Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) in the United Kingdom seeks to elevate the status of teaching and learning in higher education and provide better information to prospective students.
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Higher Education Conference: Gen Next 2017
What does the next generation of university students want from their degree? How can universities adapt to changing expectations?
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2016: The Year in Review
It’s been a busy year in higher education in Australia. Universities Australia has driven a bumper program of work on behalf of the sector – spearheading advocacy on a vast number of issues that affect our members.
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Going viral: promoting the contribution of universities in a digital age
It’s a recurring question for universities: how to communicate the value of what we do?
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Thinking about innovation: why basic research matters
Recently the founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, spent time at the California University of Technology (Caltech.) There he discovered “phenomenal research underway” to improve health, find new sources of energy, and make the world a better place.
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A Fine Romance: Australian university engagement with China
In drawing the outlines of engagement between Australian and Chinese universities, one must paint with a very broad brush.
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Higher education by numbers
The higher education system in Australia is a major contributor to economic prosperity and social cohesion. Australia’s universities now have more than 1.3 million students and 120,000 staff across nearly 200 campuses.
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The rise of university philanthropy in Australia
Philanthropic support for higher education in Australia and New Zealand is on the rise. This is a heartening trend, and in many ways, 2015 was a particularly outstanding year for universities building a culture of philanthropy.
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