Australian universities exist for broad societal benefit, they deliver public goods with public funds. They strengthen democracy, underpin citizenship, create new knowledge, build social capacity, enable social mobility and (literally) produce the professions. And over the last thirty years, with the advent of mass higher education, universities have become ever-more central to public life.
Universities exist to serve society, but what does that look like in the 21st century? Global crises persist and multiply, generating manifold social and political problems. How can universities address these problems, without being defined as self-interested, elitist or marginal? How can they help governments, graduates and wider players to provide the long-term commitment and leadership we need?
There is global recognition of the importance of publicly-funded universities. The Talloires Network of 400 universities, for instance, asserts ‘education as a universal human right’. In Australia university education is often presented more as a privilege than a right. But we all rely on graduates and the contribution they make to society, in virtually every aspect of our life. The public benefits of universities are closely connected with their effect on individual lives, and this is part of what makes universities public institutions.
This symposium is bringing together thought leaders from around the country to explore the critical public purpose role of universities. It focuses on the university as a public institution and what that means in the 21st century. It addresses the public benefit of universities, their raison d’etre, and their role in addressing urgent questions facing society.
There are three underlying aims:
- To document the current dependence of society on universities, across fields, activities and sectors, drawing on public experience.
- To focus on the university-society nexus, how to deepen it and reimagine it to increase its effectiveness in the context of global trends.
- To help shift the debate on public funding of higher education from zero-sum public-private doctrines to a positive-sum focus on building social capacity.
Cost: $50 waged, free for unwaged and students.
Follow the "attend" button above to register and for more information on the program and speakers.