Australian Universities: Thriving in a Changing World?

Author name: 
Ryan Young
ANU National Security College

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University sectors in Australia and across the world are facing an inflection point in their future trajectories. The COVID-19 pandemic has undermined business models built on international student income, radically changed the student experience and upended norms of academic behaviour – particularly around conferences and travel.

To help tackle questions around how universities can decide on robust strategies in this context, this project explored a range of trends and issues in the university sector, and project possible pathways out to 2028, to understand the likely directions of change in the sector. These trends and issues coalesced into a number of challenge scenarios to test potential strategies against, and to identify likely successful approaches.

This Occasional Paper makes the following recommendations:

Recommendation 1: To thrive in the 21st century, universities need to, at a minimum, get the technology and digital platforms right (including the work practices to make full use of them) and re-examine what a university education should provide today given societal changes.

Recommendation 2: To navigate the shift in societal values, universities need to shift its balance of effort more towards collaboration, partnerships, inter-disciplinary work and helping others in society make sense of the information already out there.

Recommendation 3: Achieving any of these changes requires universities to improve internal structures and incentives to enable new ways of working and integrate the continued core strengths of universities with expectations and needs in the 2020s.

Dr Ryan Young is the Director, NSC Futures Hub.

He leads work on how to integrate analysis of long-term trends and potential futures into effective everyday policy making.

Prior to the NSC he spent almost 5 years in strategic policy in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) where he worked across all areas of public policy, including cyber security, counter terrorism policy, infrastructure, innovation, school funding and early childhood education. He has worked across multiple Departments in the Australian Public Service and has held Visiting Fellow and/or teaching positions at the University of Leipzig, Germany, the Australian National University and the University of Canberra. Ryan has a PhD in philosophy and logic from the Australian National University.

Image: ANU Image Library, Llewellyn Hall Graduation, Stuart Hay

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