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Engagement Australia International Conference 2023: Engaged Universities – The next 20 years

Last week, NCSEHE’s Shamit Saggar and Miriam Fisher attended the 2023 Engagement Australia International Conference at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta South campus, the central theme of which was, “Engaged Universities – The next 20 years.”

Conference discussions delved deeply into the impending Australian Universities Accord and provided numerous insights that resonated across the higher education landscape.

A session facilitated by Engagement Australia Chair Professor Jim Nyland and featuring Western Sydney University’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Barney Glover AO and Regional Education Commissioner The Hon. Fiona Nash discussed:

  • The Accord’s role in providing a clear mandate for Australian universities
  • The importance of higher education engagement and the need for institutions to exhibit a social conscience
  • Recognition of the Accord’s complexity, with a call for a tailored approach to address the unique challenges faced by regional Australia
  • The pivotal role local communities play in supporting regional youth in attaining higher education, and
  • The necessity of scholarship schemes to attract students from regional areas to university.

Continuing the conversation, a second panel – “The Accord, where to now?” – facilitated by Professor Jessica Vanderlelie, explored the post-Accord higher education environment. Panellists included NCSEHE’s Professor Shamit Saggar, Australian Institute of Professional Counsellors’ Professor Christy Collis, Innovative Research Universities’ Paul Harris, University of New South Wales’ Professor Leanne Holt and Country Universities Centre’s Chris Ronan. The panel offered many vital takeaways, including:

  • The historical context of Indigenous higher education and the need to challenge Western-dominant views and elitism in education
  • The need to address challenges to achieving equity in education, particularly with respect to market failures and the marginalisation of education in regional communities
  • The urgent need for equitable distribution of political capital, and accountability for strategic financial usage
  • The importance of recognising ‘belonging’ for equity students, regardless of their backgrounds, and
  • The need to challenge the historical perception of universities as founts of knowledge, and move towards a user-centric approach.

The conference also celebrated excellence in engagement through the Engagement Australia Excellence Awards 2023 held at Sydney’s CommBank Stadium. The winners across eight categories set a commendable standard for nation-building efforts, showcasing the diverse brilliance present in every corner of the Australian economy and community:

  1. For Excellence in Community Engagement: University of Melbourne for their exceptional Community Fellows Program.
  2. For Excellence in Indigenous Engagement: The University of Melbourne’s Budj Bim On-Country Learning and Research.
  3. For Excellence in Industry Engagement: Deakin University, Centre for Humanitarian Leadership, and Innovation Central Perth, Curtin University, for their outstanding contributions.
  4. For Excellence in International Engagement: Monash Centre for Health Research and Implementation for their Partnership for Global Impact.
  5. For Outstanding Engagement for Student Learning: The University of Melbourne’s Innovation Practice Program.
  6. For Outstanding Engagement for Research Impact: The University of Melbourne’s Students with Additional Needs (SWANs)/Abilities Based Learning and Education Support (ABLES).
  7. For Excellence in Student and/or Alumni Engagement: Griffith University for their MBA for Life program.
  8. For Outstanding Leadership in Engagement: Special acknowledgment to Associate Professor Christopher Maylea of La Trobe University for outstanding leadership in engagement.

Our sincere thanks to Engagement Australia’s business manager and conference organiser Karen Daley, as well as all presenters and attendees, for a rich and thought-provoking three days. 

Posted 24 November 2023 Posted in Editorial, General