The strategic dialogue will be attended by Australia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom Alexander Downer, senior UK Government officials, Vice Chancellors of nine leading universities, and three sector peak bodies – Universities Australia, Universities UK, and Universities Scotland.
It will examine how to deepen bilateral ties through the exchange of brilliant academic and research talent, university research collaborations, reciprocal access to data and infrastructure, and the prospect of establishing a special reciprocal visa for academic talent.
The group will also examine the feasibility of establishing a new bilateral research fund to take joint research to a new level of collaboration.
“We see enormous potential to expand the depth and breadth of the bilateral relationship through our respective university sectors,” said Universities Australia Chief Executive Belinda Robinson.
High Commissioner Alexander Downer said: “Australia and the UK are old friends, and we hope the friendship will become even closer as the UK makes its preparations to leave the EU.”
“I am encouraged to see that higher education institutions have taken the initiative and started to think about the benefits of greater collaboration between our two countries, particularly in the field of academic research,” Mr Downer said.
In light of the UK’s decision to exit the European Union, Universities Australia and Universities UK decided to establish an Expert Advisory Group to maximise new bilateral opportunities.
The group convened today’s talks to begin exploring how prospective future UK-Australia bilateral relations could expand to include joint initiatives in higher education, research and innovation.
University of Wollongong Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, who was instrumental in the establishment of the dialogue, said it was an historic opportunity that would benefit both nations.
“The UK is a natural, important and valued partner for Australian universities,” Professor Wellings said.
“Policy initiatives to enhance research collaborations and expand opportunities for university students and staff between Australia and the UK would be extremely valuable,” he said.
“As the UK’s relationship with the EU shifts, Australia has a unique opportunity to enhance bilateral relations with the UK and to position itself to participate in any new third or multi-party consortia.”
“There’s an important role for the Australian Government to help position Australian education and research institutions to be part of any future UK research networks.”
Universities UK Chief Executive Nicola Dandridge said: “The contribution made by universities in both the UK and in Australia to our national and local economies, to regional economic regeneration, to the quality of life and to the transformation of individual students’ lives is vast.”
“Because of our shared history and strong connections, there are natural connections between UK and Australian universities. But by coming together, we can achieve so much more,” Ms Dandridge said.
“The time is right to reappraise and reenergise this relationship. Today’s meeting will convene some of our most experienced university leaders, alongside senior UK and Australian officials, to identify those areas of university-led education, training, research and innovation in which our higher education systems can work together to achieve even more impact – regionally, nationally and globally.”
Professor Ed Byrne, President and Principal of King’s College London, said: “The partnership between UK and Australian universities is among the most important and productive of such relationships globally. It has led to substantial benefits to students, staff, and institutions.”
“The quality and impact of the research when UK and Australian university researchers work together to tackle complex questions has been strong. Whether it is in blue skies research, or in developing innovative, applied solutions for business and industry. Those partnerships provide us with a firm basis for building even stronger collaborations in future,” Professor Byrne said.
Universities Australia also formally extended its deepest sympathies to UK colleagues in the wake of the attack in Manchester this week.