It’s been yet another big year for Australia’s universities, and for us as their peak body.
We started the year as we always do, bringing the sector together at the Universities Australia Conference – a scene setter for higher education policy discussions for the year ahead.
In her address to the National Press Club, then Universities Australia Chair Professor Margaret Gardner unveiled new research which showed university researchers and experts are the most trusted group in society to ensure facts and evidence in public debate. They rate higher than doctors, business leaders, politicians, journalists, and churches.
At UA conference, we launched a major initiative – Career Ready Graduates – to showcase graduate employability support at Australian universities. It confirmed around half a million university students did a workplace placement or experience in 2017 as part of their degree.
We delivered the Australian Awards for University Teaching, with the top prize for Griffith University maths educator Dr Kevin Larkin.
And we ran our annual UA Pitch It Clever competition for Australia’s brilliant early career university researchers, with dental researcher Dr Arosha Weerakoon of the University of Queensland taking top honours.
In February, we announced a major partnership with Our Watch and the Victorian Government to strengthen gender equality and respectful relationships resources among our 1.5 million university students and 130,000 staff.
Universities have continued to work to prevent sexual assault and sexual harassment in university communities, with the sector regulator (TEQSA) acknowledging their work in January. In August, we announced the next student survey would occur in 2020 as part of the sector’s Respect. Now. Always. initiative.
In March, Universities Australia won a Mumbrella award for our Uni Research Changes Lives video campaign – and Education Minister Dan Tehan launched the next phase of this campaign at a Parliamentary event in July. The videos tell powerful stories about how Australian university research is transforming the lives of everyday Australians – including our gorgeous story about young Matilda and the Multilit program.
In April, a review of freedom of speech in Australian universities found no evidence of a free speech crisis on Australian campuses.
A federal election was held in May, closely followed by a new ministry and shadow ministry. We welcomed the reappointment of Education Minister Dan Tehan and Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews. In the shadow ministry, we welcomed the reappointment of Tanya Plibersek as Shadow Minister for Education and appointment of Brendan O’Connor as Shadow Minister for Science and Industry.
August brought the announcement by Education Minister Dan Tehan of how performance-based funding for universities would be structured from 2020. We worked with Government and the sector to provide input on the Government’s proposals, and Minister Tehan announced further details in October.
From June to November, we worked in partnership with national security agencies to write a set of world-first guidelines to counter foreign interference.
During the year, Universities Australia took part in the review of the Defence Trade Controls Act and to the Government’s Cyber Security Strategy 2020.
We ran the Universities Australia Marketing, Communications and Development (UAMCD) conference – the only conference run by the sector, for the sector in these specialist fields.
In November, Universities Australia announced projects funded under the Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme, which enables early career researchers at Australian universities to work with counterparts in Germany.
We welcomed the launch of the Global Talent – Independent Program after working closely with Government on its development and for better visa conditions for students.
Throughout 2019, we strengthened our partnership with the peak body for the Indigenous academy – NATSIHEC – continuing our work through the UA Indigenous Strategy – and saw a 2.8 per cent lift in Indigenous student offers in 2019.
In December we welcomed revised legislation introduced by Education Minister Dan Tehan to outlaw contract cheating in Australia. We thanked the Minister for taking a strong stance on the issue and for incorporating our feedback into the revised Bill.
We also welcomed the Government’s endorsement of the review of Provider Category Standards by Emeritus Professor Peter Coaldrake AO. The review reaffirms the nexus between teaching and research as a defining feature of Australia’s universities.
The Government also endorsed the higher education recommendations of the review of the Australian Qualifications Framework by Professor Peter Noonan and his colleagues on the panel. These changes to the framework will help to strengthen existing pathways between TAFE and universities – and make the post-school system easier to understand.
This year we have worked with the major granting bodies the ARC and NHMRC on further detailed codes of conduct on research practice
And we have led university sector delegations to Japan, China and Israel, joined a Ministerial delegation to India, and hosted incoming delegations from Vietnam and ASEAN.
We continued to nurture Australia’s reputation as a destination of choice for brilliant international students, who contribute hugely to our communities and inject $37bn into Australia’s economy each year.
As always, UA thanks our members, partners, supporters and stakeholders for working with us on this jam-packed agenda. We couldn’t be as successful in our advocacy without your tireless commitment.