In the face of disruption and funding scrutiny, Monash University Vice Chancellor and Universities Australia Chair, Professor Margaret Gardner is seeking to re-direct the spotlight to the areas in which university innovation strategy is delivering success.
As the keynote speaker at the 2017 AFR Higher Education Summit in September, Gardner questioned the government’s proposed funding cuts and implored policy makers to examine where university innovation strategy is leading instead of examining ways to improve, bemoaning the present and ignoring the past.
“Reform is a grand word, and there’s always room to challenge the way universities are shaped and operated,” said Gardner. “But good strategy should begin by understanding what we do well.”
Three key strengths of universities as outlined by Professor Gardner
- Australian universities are ranked at number 3 over in the world, behind the USA at number one and the UK at number two. Half of all Australian universities are in the top 400, an enviable position for any sector of national endeavour.
- International demand for education is driven by reputation and the top 100 rankings. In 2016, higher education was a $22 billion export industry with 350,000 international students choosing Australian universities for their studies. It’s reported that international students spend double in the wider economy than they do in fees so the flow on effect can be felt broadly.
- The social and economic benefits of education lead to higher skilled workforce with more resilience. Education supports a nation’s economic development and leads to more people leading healthy lives. Australian levels of attainment are high.
Gardner rejects “…a discussion of presumed inefficiencies instead of acknowledgement of success” as the optimum starting point, but agrees that to survive and succeed, universities must take risks and be entrepreneurial.
“In universities I see graduates with big aspirations, researchers with grand designs,” Gardner continued. “The shaping of this debate is in our hands.” – Karen Taylor-Brown