University types

The Scan #176 16 December 2015

News

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Rebalancing Victorian VET

skills (1)

16 December 2015     |     The Victorian government has released the Final Report of The VET Funding Review (Mackenzie Report).  It’s a weighty document, both literally and figuratively, running to 173 pages and 109 recommendations. Skills minister Steve Herbert says the government accepts the “general thrust” of the report and its recommendations.  It will take the next year to work through design and implementation issues and to consult with stakeholders ahead of the introduction of a new funding model in 2017.  Certain matters, however, are given, such as restoring the public provider network (TAFE) as the bulwark of quality in the VET system, imposing stricter regulatory and contract compliance on providers and formally abandoning the “open market” approach of its previous government….[ READ MORE ]…..

VET -“more work needed”

14 December 2015    |      Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, state premiers and chief ministers have agreed to more closely review reforms and Race to the bottomregulation, which had begun under the original COAG National Partnership Agreement on skills – initially created in April 2012 under Prime Minister Julia Gillard.  The COAG meeting in Sydney on 11 December 2015 agreed that “further work will be undertaken on options to reform vocational education and training, for initial consideration at COAG’s first meeting in 2016, recognising that skills ministers will continue to work together to address key VET system challenges.”  Training ministers for NSW and Victoria also signalled their dissatisfaction with current vocational education policy, with NSW minister John Barilaro describing current VET FEE-HELP arangements as “a race to the bottom” ….[ READ MORE ]……

Job axe to fall at UWA

UWA

14 December 2015    |    The University of Western Australia (UWA) will lay off 300 staff as part of sweeping cuts aimed at reducing costs. The university will slash 100 academic positions and 200 professional positions early next year.  Fifty new academic positions will be created to enhance the university’s “capability and impact in areas of comparative advantage”.  UWA vice-chancellor Professor Paul Johnson said in a statement that 2015 had been a challenging year for the Australian higher education sector.  National Tertiary Education Union WA secretary Gabe Gooding said the union is outraged and that there is no justification for sacking 300 staff when the university made a $90 million operational surplus in 2014….[ READ MORE ] ….

Calculator

VET FEE-HELP skewering VET

11 December 2015      |       Explosive growth in the VET FEE-HELP scheme has masked massive direct public disinvestment in vocational education and training. While a report by NCVER shows a notional growth of 1.7% in 2014 over 2013 (plus $141.0 million, from $8512.4 million to $8653.4 million), it’s all in VET-FEE Help payments: actual direct expenditure by governments, including the Commonwealth declined markedly VET FEE-HELP. ….[ READ MORE ]…..

Innovating an “ideas boom”

Innovation

7 December 2015      |       Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull unveiled his much-anticipated Innovation Statement, saying he wanted to drive an “ideas boom”. The statement allocates almost $1.1 billion over the next four years to promote business-based research, development and innovation.  A key focus of the plan revolves around strengthening ties between the business community, universities and scientific institutions.
A $200 million innovation fund will co-invest in businesses that develop technology from the CSIRO and Australian universities. CSIRO will also get an extra $20 million to help commercialise research outcomes….[ READ MORE ]…..

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Milestones

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Neil Coulson named Victorian Skills Commissioner

16 December 2015

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Mr Coulson has extensive experience working in industry and was the CEO of the Victorian Employers Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VECCI) from 2000 to 2007.  He has also held a number of other senior roles in industry including Chief of Australian Manufacturer Jacyo Corporation from 2007 to 2012 and was a member of the Victorian Learning and Employment Skills Commission between 2001 and 2004.

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Neil Coulson

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Comment & analysis

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16 December 2015

Time to end the exploitation of vulnerable people

The case for REAL reform

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It’s hard to argue with the proposition that Australia’s vocational education sector is a mess.  Mary Leahy (University of Melbourne) writes that tightening regulation and tweaking some of the settings will contain the damage, but these measures alone will not address deeper problems in the sector.   Real, sustained improvement requires rethinking the funding and regulatory models but also the purpose and idea of vocational education.

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VET Reform

There is clear evidence of rorting and rent-seeking in the vocational education and training (VET) sector.

The behaviour of some training providers, agents and brokers is nothing short of despicable. Thousands of students are being signed up to courses that they have little or no chance of completing.

The business model is fairly simple:

    • Register as a training provider and ensure your students have access to VET FEE HELP income-contingent loans.
    • Sign up as many students as possible for single or double diplomas.
    • The student takes on a VET FEE HELP loan to defer payment of course fees.
    • The training provider receives the VET FEE HELP payment from the government.
    • As long as the student is enrolled beyond the census date, the training provider is paid.
    • Even if the course is never started, the provider will receive funds from the government and the student is liable for the debt.

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One size does not fit all

The case for a new university type

Republished 16 December 2015

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Many of our universities are teaching focused rather than research focused.  Why is this a bad thing?  The Lisbon Council, which rated the Australian system highly, considered that while world-class research is an important aspect that allows some universities to turn out first-class students, for the system as a whole the educational mission is paramount.

The national protocols that govern our system ought to reflect the reality, that we have a continuum of university institutional types from research-intensive to teaching-intensive.It is past time we addressed the fiction that all universities are research-intensive and that all academics need to be research-active to be good teachers.

Across Australia there are multi-campus universities that cannot maintain the research activity on all campuses that is supposed to sustain the nexus. Many universities have recognised that good teaching is informed by scholarship by creating teaching-only positions that emphasise scholarship, being currency of knowledge and understanding, over the ideal of research as pure, original discovery.

 

 

UNIVERSITY STOCK

 

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The importance of universities to Australia’s prosperity

28 November 2015

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 Universities Australia commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to analyse the contribution that universities make to Australia’s economic and social prosperity. This work was undertaken to inform the development of Universities Australia’s Keep it Clever—Policy Statement 2016.  The report seeks to present a comprehensive and coherent framework of benefits generated by universities. This includes examination of the conceptual role of universities in Australian society and how they contribute to the success of the nation, as well as a more detailed analysis of the benefits directly attributable to universities. The scope of the analysis does not include a detailed examination of the economic activity generated by university operations, but rather examines the contribution made to the productive capacity of the economy through universities’ teaching and learning, research discovery and adoption, and community service activities.

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As institutions, universities embody social, economic and intellectual resources which combine to generate benefits on a local, national and global scale. They equip students with the knowledge and skills that allow them to make greater contributions to society; they generate and disseminate knowledge which enhances productivity and improves living standards; and they provide a myriad of broader community benefits.

This report canvasses and examines the various ways in which universities contribute to our economic and social prosperity and how, given the economic imperatives confronting Australia, the sector’s role is likely to evolve and grow over time.

 

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How teaching funds research in Australian universities

16 December 2015

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A report by the Grattan Institute report finds that universities earn up to $3.2 billion more from students than they spend on teaching, and have powerful incentives to spend the extra money on research. International students, who usually generate more revenue per student than domestic students, contribute a substantial proportion of this surplus. The report’s author, Andrew Norton, says the finding is concerning because, while university research matters to Australia, the evidence that it improves teaching is less clear. He observes that direct spending on teaching, by contrast, is far more likely to ensure that universities offer the high-quality courses students want. In this commentary in The Conversation, Norton observes that the priority of research within universities means that teaching does not always get its share of time and money. He proposes that any new funding system must ensure that money intended for teaching is spent on teaching.

Unis

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Life & stuff

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Christmas 2015

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The VET Store

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The VET Store is a  service by the VET Development Centre which provides access to a range of information to support VET practitioners in the work they do.

VET Development Centre
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Profile of Universities Australia

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As the peak group of Australia’s universities, Universities Australia aims to  “support a sustainable national university system characterised by inherent quality, accessibility, innovation and high performance that affirms Australia as a world-leading nation and valued international partner”.

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Universities Australia was established on 22 May 2007 as the peak body representing the university sector and replaced the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee (AVCC).

The AVCC dates back to May 1920, when Vice-Chancellors at Australia’s then six universities met in Sydney and established a committee and secretariat. The Review of the AVCC in 2006 recommended the establishment of Universities Australia to represent Australia’s universities.

Universities Australia is funded by annual contributions from member universities. Plenary meetings are held four times a year to discuss policy matters of topical interest.

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Australia's universities

 13  August 2014

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The Scan has added new pages about Australia’s universities.

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Academy

Australia’s universities

             Australian university profiles

             Australian university groups

            Universities Australia

           Group of Eight

           Australian Technology Network of Universities

           Innovative Research Universities

           Regional Universities Network

           Ungrouped universities

Civilisation as we don't know it: teaching-only universities

The Conversation    |     3 July 2014

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Gavin MoodieThe Scan has long been a proponent of “teaching only universities” (see One size does not fit all unis). In this piece in The Conversation, Gavin Moodie observes  that there is no reason in principle, practice nor historical precedent to champion or oppose teaching only universities. But were the research requirement of universities removed from the higher education threshold standards he doesn’t expect any current Australian university to relinquish its research role. Rightly or wrongly, he writes, research has become so embedded in universities’ ethos and activities since the 1960s that it is central to all universities and to most academics’ conception of themselves as universities and as university academics. Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of Australian Catholic University, argues that teaching only institutions would not be universities as we know them (no, they would not be, which is the point) and would impoverish students’ educational experience (why would being exposed to good or excellent teaching and scholarship impoverish a student??).
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Teaching

With higher education changes meaning universities will soon be looking for ways to cut costs, many have been wondering if universities will give up on research to focus on where the money is – teaching students.

Teaching-only universities have long been contentious in Australia. Various people, interests and arguments promote teaching only universities, while other bodies and arguments support the Australian status quo.

Do universities have to do research?

In Australia, the higher education threshold standards restrict the title of university to institutions which conduct research and offer research masters and doctorates in at least three broad fields of study. The threshold standards are a regulation that may be changed by the government, if it is allowed by both houses of federal parliament.

Australia is unusual in making research a condition of designation as a university. Most institutions accepted as universities worldwide conduct no research, such as many universities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Requirements differ across the OECD.

Aotearoa (New Zealand) and Massachusetts in the US make research a condition of designation as a university, but England and California do not. All universities in Ontario in Canada conduct research, but British Columbia has a category of teaching-only universities which were formerly community colleges before upgrading as university colleges and then as universities.

Research was established as an institutional role of universities relatively recently. Research has long been a personal activity of scholars, some of whom were located in universities, but it did not emerge as an institutional role until the 19th century.

Even so, a research role for universities was rejected by Cardinal Newman in his famous lectures on The Idea of a University as late as 1853. Research has been an institutional role of universities for only about one-fifth of their history since the establishment of the first European universities in the 11th and 12th centuries.

Universities elsewhere in the world have no obligation to conduct research
Flickr/College of AG communications, CC BY

A research requirement for universities was initially based on philosopher Wilhelm von Humboldt’s educational ideal Einheit von Lehre und Forschung (the unity of teaching and research). But clearly there is no such unity. Numerous institutions excel at research while conducting no teaching, such as Australia’s CSIRO, Germany’s Max Planck institutes, France’s Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and numerous medical research institutes around the world.

Conversely, several higher education institutions teach excellent advanced programs without a formal institutional research role.

Would universities conduct research if they didn’t have to?

There is no reason in principle, practice nor historical precedent to champion or oppose teaching only universities. Were the research requirement of universities removed from the higher education threshold standards I expect no current Australian university would relinquish its research role.

The changes to higher education advanced by education minister Christopher Pyne would increase the competition experienced by public universities, and perhaps pressures would be felt most keenly by the least research intensive universities. But they will retain their research role even if it means further increasing teaching loads for less research intensive staff and cutting less popular programs. They will do so for at least two reasons.

Rightly or wrongly, research has become so embedded in universities’ ethos and activities since the 1960s that it is central to all universities and to most academics’ conception of themselves as universities and as university academics.

The division between universities and former Colleges of Advanced Education collapsed in the late 1980s partly because colleges conducted research and started awarding PhDs even though they had no formal research role and had no designated research funding. So even in the extremely unlikely event that some current universities were designated as teaching only and had their research funding removed, they would still find ways of continuing their research.

Secondly, even modest research accomplishment adds to institutions’ and academics’ prestige and their ability to attract students. Even less prominent research universities would weaken their competitive position by relinquishing research. Research is important for universities’ marketing.

Accordingly, Professor Greg Craven, Vice Chancellor of Australian Catholic University, argues that teaching only institutions would not be universities as we know them and would impoverish students’ educational experience. The Regional Universities Network rejected Pyne’s call for teaching only universities, arguing that

research was a vital part of being a university … attracts quality academics, builds institutional quality and capacity, including in teaching and learning, is essential for the training of research students, creates a pool of research-trained professionals, and supports and contributes to regional industries and commercial activities.

This is likely to be followed by all universities in the Pyne era and to be strongly supported by their academics.

Others would jump on the university bandwagon

If research were removed as a requirement for university designation several private colleges and TAFE institutes would seek designation as a university to increase their ability to attract students. These new teaching only universities wouldn’t necessarily do anything different, so there would be no increase in diversity of institutions or programs by allowing them to call themselves universities. But it would distinguish some, presumably stronger, teaching only providers from others and give them a considerable marketing advantage.

The distinction of some teaching only institutions from others would make it easier for students to identify the stronger teaching only institutions, thus resulting in a better informed market. It would also open up the possibility of governments allocating different types of funding or roles to teaching only universities, although this would be opposed by teaching only providers not designated as universities.

Whether or not you support teaching only universities may depend on whether you believe that society’s different needs are best served by having different bodies responsible for different functions and whether those differences should be categorical or continuous.

The Conversation

This article by Gavin Moodie (RMIT) was originally published on The Conversation.

Reconceptualising Tertiary Education

Mitchell

1 May 2014

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Date: Thursday 22 May 2014
Time: 6.15pm for 6.30pm start
Location: Victoria University City Flinders Campus
300 Flinders Street, Melbourne
Level 11, Lecture Theatre 11.01
Dress: Business attire
RSVP: Thursday 15 May 2014

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In this inaugural Mitchell Institute lecture, Professor Peter Dawkins, Vice-Chancellor and President of Victoria University, will present the case for a substantial reshaping of Australia’s tertiary education system and address three specific questions:

  1. Does the Kemp-Norton Review of the Demand Driven Model of Higher Education provide a helpful way forward in the current context?
  2. What is the value, role and future of dual sector universities, of which Victoria University is one?
  3. How should we measure the performance of the tertiary education system and its constituent institutions?

Professor Dawkins will launch the Mitchell Institute policy paper: Reconceptualising Tertiary Education at this event.

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Dual sector unis ‘happy to ditch TAFE label’

The Australian | 5 March 2014

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It appears Victoria’s four dual-sector universities have quietly dumped their TAFE status and the burden of state government reporting that went with it.

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RMITNew legislation will see state government-owned TAFE assets and infrastructure transferred to the dual-sector universities. It also frees them to negotiate wage deals with TAFE teachers without the state government having to approve the agreements.

Andrew Smith, Federation University’s deputy vice-chancellor (academic), said there are no funding FED UNI LOGO INSET (2)implications, noting changes to state funding arrangements meant there were no longer any differences between TAFEs and private colleges.  He said FedUni’s former TAFE was now effectively a publicly owned registered training organisation.

RMIT vice-chancellor Margaret Gardner said the new legislation better reflected the new reality of dual sectors.

“The notion that there was this TAFE division was an organisational fiction,” she said, adding there would not be changes to RMIT’s VET offerings as a result of the change.

She said RMIT was happy to dump the TAFE label, which she said didn’t always translate well overseas.

“The legislation allows the universities to represent ourselves as we are; it reduces red tape and frees us to pursue our vision and missions,” she said.

The move may make mergers between the remaining stand-alone TAFEs with dual-sectors more attractive as it would reduce reporting and compliance requirements.

The change in status doesn’t necessarily affect their recognition as “dual sector” universities: Gavin Moodie distinguishes between single sector institutions which offer 97% of their teaching in one sector, mixed sector institutions which teach from 3% to 20% of their students in their smaller sector, and dual sector institutions which have substantial (> 20% of their load) in each of vocational and higher education.

Inside a cooperative university

David Matthews of The Times Higher Education Supplement reports  on the University of Mondragon (Spain), which is fighting to preserve its teaching mission, industry-focused research and mutual governance model.

Mondragon

It is hard to think of a time when academics in the UK have been more dissatisfied with where the academy is going. Their list of gripes is long: from the rise of the student “consumer” to overpaid vice-chancellors, a distant management class, increasing marketisation, a seemingly ever-growing brood of administrators and, perhaps least tangibly, a sense that academia is turning into a competitive rather than comradely affair.

Last year, senior scholars founded the Council for the Defence of British Universities, which set out to fight many of these developments, along with what they believe to be increasing control of universities by government and business. But so far no practical alternatives have emerged. Meanwhile, experiments such as Lincoln’s Social Science Centre, a cooperative organisation offering higher education for free, have taken place only on a very small, relatively informal scale.

At a time when many academics feel remote from their university’s managers and strategic plans, the cooperative model, in which all staff have a stake, has obvious appeal. So, can the University of Mondragon, an established higher education cooperative in the lush green mountains of the Basque Country in northern Spain, offer any answers for academies elsewhere? Founded in 1997 from a collection of co-ops dating back to 1943, the institution now has 9,000 students. The staff have joint ownership and the institution’s culture and its model of governance are radically different from those of modern UK universities.

Times Higher Education went to see how and why they do things differently at Mondragon, and to consider whether some of its practices might appeal to UK scholars looking for a new model for the academy.

Even before arriving in Spain, there is one obvious difference about Mondragon – it does not have a press office to restrict access to the top brass or vet comments by its employees. Instead, THE’s trip was arranged directly through teaching and administrative staff. And on arrival, transport was provided by the vice-chancellor, Jon Altuna, who drove from campus to campus – with the occasional stop-off for tapas and wine.

quote marksMondragon is jointly owned by its academic and administrative staff. To become a fully fledged member, employees have to work there for at least two years, and then pay €12,000 (£10,300), which buys a slice of the university’s capital that can be withdrawn upon retirement.However, it is unlikely that anyone employed by the university expects to earn enough to build a personal art collection or buy membership to an exclusive private members’ club: no one at Mondragon may earn more than three times the salary of the lowest-paid worker.

This is a far cry from the UK, where in 2008 the ratio between the highest- and the lowest-paid workers in higher education was, on average, 15.35:1, according to the 2011 review of fair pay in the public sector led by Will Hutton – a bigger gap than found in any other part of the public sector.

There is one exception at Mondragon, though: the rector, the closest thing the university has to a chief executive, is permitted to take home five times the lowest wage – although even this relative largesse was agreed only after “huge argument”, Altuna notes.

Excluding cleaners and catering staff, who are subcontracted, the lowest-paid staff, such as administrative and maintenance workers, earn €27,421 a year. The highest-paid managers earn just over three times this amount, while the current rector earns about €157,000. “We are not in this project for [personal] profit-making,” Altuna says with a smile.

Although the university’s student population is relatively small, at about 4,000 (it offers 21 undergraduate, 12 master’s and three PhD programmes), another 5,000 people a year undertake professional training at Mondragon. “We want to be one of the main agents in making companies competitive,” Altuna says.

He is referring to the fact that the university is in effect the training and research-and-development arm of a wider network of interlocking cooperatives, known collectively as the Mondragon Corporation.

Discard any quaint images you might have of basket-weaving communes eking out a trade in the Basque hills. The corporation employs more than 80,000 people and had a revenue of €14 billion in 2012. It is the largest cooperative in the world and has 94 production plants outside Spain. Its factories manufacture white goods, industrial components and road bikes, while its construction wing built Bilbao’s swooping silver Guggenheim Museum.

The university has a highly democratic governance structure. Its supreme body is the general assembly, a 30-strong committee of representatives composed of one-third staff, one-third students and one-third outside interested parties, often other co-ops in Mondragon Corporation. It meets annually to decide on the priorities for the coming year and has significant powers: it can, for example, sack members of the senior management team. (It last used this power in 2007 when one manager was dismissed, according to Altuna.)

ANU needs to recreate itself : Schmidt

Brian Schmidt4
…half empty?

The Canberra Times     |    20 October  2013

Nobel laureate Brian Schmidt says the Australian National University must cut student numbers and change its admissions process in order to recreate itself as a prestigious university in the style of Harvard and Oxford.

He has also called for increased funding by the federal government to ensure a change from ”pumping degrees out by the masses”.

Schmidt said the ANU had a successful past, creating ”three of Australia’s six Nobel prizes”, but there were concerns for its future.

I am concerned that we are no longer different.  We’re essentially funded exactly the same way. Our relationship with the federal government is not that different from the University of Melbourne or any other university.

He pointed out that ANU, unlike Sydney and Melbourne universities (and UQ, UWA etc), couldn’t garner financial support from large state governments in order to expand.

They can spend more money than us.  Unless we differentiate, we’ll end up as a second-class university. He said changes to ANU’s undergraduate program were needed in order to distinguish it and reverse the sliding international reputation of Australian universities.

He said ANU needs to change and he suggested that “admissions to tighten up a bit. The Australian National University, if they want to do it right, we need to interview people.”

Smaller tutorials with a maximum of 15 students were also suggested by Schmidt, who said that the proposed changes would require increased financial support from the Abbott government.

”We’re going to need support from the federal government,” he said. ”I don’t [want] the Australian National University to be a threat. The ANU needs to be helping the sector.”

Schmidt said the changes would help move the country’s higher education sector to a place where ”quite frankly, it needs to go”.

quote marksThe big problem that Australia has right now is that it doesn’t have a great university

See
Winds of change buffetting ANU
ANU to review tutorial phase out

Go8 joins international research grouping

 Go8   |    18 October 2013

Hefei2Four of the world’s leading research university associations have made a joint statement on the characteristics of contemporary research universities. The four associations – the Association of American Universities (AAU), the Consortium of China 9 Research Universities (C9), the Group of Eight Australia (Go8), and the League of European Research Universities (LERU) issued the statement at the annual meeting of the C9 universities in Hefei, China. The associations  have committed to work together to advance the 10 characteristics described in the joint statement and also explore prospects for additional collaborations.

The four groups say they are keen to extend commitment to the research university characteristics by inviting comparable associations of research universities to sign onto the Joint Statement – for example, the UK’s Russell Group.

Professor Jianguo Hou, President of The University of Science and Technology, China, and C9 convenor for 2013 said that the statement articulates the key characteristics of research universities that enable them to fulfil their research and education missions.

It outlines the shared values that underpin effective cross-national institutional collaboration. Research universities can work together across borders and across oceans to make far-reaching contributions to problem solving and innovation around the world.

Professor Fred Hilmer, Go8 Chair, said that the statement is  the beginning of an important process of deepening community understanding of what research universities are and what they can be, and of their unique role in meeting global challenges.

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Hefie Statement