The peak body, which represents 39 Australian universities, marked the occasion by releasing a film documenting its history, including the earlier organisation it replaced, the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.
“Higher education does not just benefit those with a degree. It benefits everyone”
Debuting the documentary, UA chief executive Belinda Robinson told delegates: “Higher education does not just benefit those with a degree. It benefits everyone.”
Robinson reflected on the changes that have occurred since UA was founded, both for the organisation and worldwide. She pointed in particular to the increasing numbers of young people aged 25-34 with a bachelor’s degree.
Opening the conference, education minister Simon Birmingham acknowledged the work of the organisation over the past year and reflected on the continuing boom in international student numbers and revenue growth in 2016, which has seen international education solidify its position as the county’s largest services export.
“Universities Australia, in this forum, has been bringing together experts to share best practice, identify opportunities, and brainstorm solutions to the sector’s challenges,” he said.
“Various geopolitical factors create new possibilities for Australia to further grow the number of students who travel here to study, and our government stands ready to work with you to seize those opportunities, just as when we’ve successfully done so together over recent years,” he added.
“Higher education is and must be transformative,” he added, pointing to the opportunities education can provide students from disadvantaged backgrounds – another theme that was widely discussed on the opening day of the Universities Australia conference.
Incoming UA chair and Monash University vice chancellor Margaret Gardner meanwhile praised the sector’s shared goals of providing quality education, preparing students for jobs of the future and producing high quality research.
“[Being globally focused] will allow us to take advantage of what the world provides us, but that will be naught if we do not nurture our culture [of collaboration and unity],” she told delegates.
The UA conference is currently taking place March 1-2 in Canberra.