Australian universities must commit to working closer with business and community to drive research and provide stimulating learning experiences if they are to survive, a national conference has heard.
Leaders, scholars and practitioners of engagement in higher education are gathering this week at the 11th annual Engagement Australia Conference Engage and Innovate for Sustainability, at Charles Sturt University (CSU) in Wagga Wagga.
"Engagement, collaboration and the resultant partnerships critical to enabling knowledge exchange more broadly should form the centre of our collective attention in the sector. This should not be seen as an 'add-on', 'nice-to-have' or 'focus-for-now' but rather a strategic national framework universities develop collectively and in partnership with government, business and society," said Engagement Australia Chair Professor Pierre Viljoen.
In his opening address, CSU Vice-Chancellor Professor Andrew Vann said the link between university and community is particularly important in regional areas.
"Regional universities first and foremost exist for their communities and Charles Sturt University is a good example of this," he said.
"Not only is the University the largest provider of education and research in our regions, it adds to the cultural development of our community and provides a range of services including health clinics, veterinary clinics and research consultancies."
Keynote speakers cautioned universities not to lose sight of public good as they brace themselves for a new set of challenges in higher education, in particular the way universities are funded.
A highlight of the conference will be the session 'In Conversations with Vice Chancellors' from 11.30am to 12.30pm on Tuesday 22 July. Professor Andrew Vann will join Professor Scott Bowman (Central Queensland University), Professor Peter Lee (Southern Cross University) and Professor Jan Thomas (University of Southern Queensland) to explore current trends and issues facing university leaders in Australia.
The conference is also showcasing a diversity of case studies where universities are looking to communities to inform their research design and agenda, while creating stimulating, relevant and high quality learning experiences for students.
Further information on the speakers and full program is available here.
Engagement Australia is the peak body for university-community engagement in Australia. For more information: www.engagementaustralia.org.au