keynote Higher Education Research and Development Society of Australasia 2015

Challenges and Opportunities – Universities in a rapidly changing world (#90)

Anne-Marie Lansdown 1
  1. Universities Australia, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

Rapid changes globally - in technology, geo-politics, economics, society and the skills demanded in workplaces - pose serious challenges for universities.

Like many institutions, how relevant universities are to Australia’s future depends on how well we meet individual and community needs while maintaining quality, in a highly competitive, dynamic and unpredictable environment.

In many disciplines knowledge and practice that is ‘cutting edge’ when a student starts a degree may be outdated by the time they graduate. Universities need to develop something other than contemporary knowledge. We need to equip students with the capabilities to engage with and shape the world. Policy and operating arrangements can facilitate success, but they cannot ensure we achieve it. That is up to us.

Increasingly, Australians are recognising the vital role of the university sector to our prospects as a nation – through workforce and skills development, research and the innovative capability that comes from them. That view must not be taken for granted. We cannot afford to be complacent. We need to build robust and respectful cross-sectoral partnerships if we – and our graduates – are to compete in the emerging global environment.

This address will consider graduate outcomes and employability. It examines trends and our contemporary context and outlines why collaborations such as the National Work Integrated Learning (WIL) Strategy – developed in partnership with our peak business bodies (ACCI, AIGroup and the BCA) and ACEN are crucial to our success. Our capacity to leverage strengths and collaborate will help determine the extent to which we engage creatively and shape our future or drift with diminishing control and influence.