The conservative roots of radicalism: making yesterday’s universities relevant today

Presented by ANU College of Asia & the Pacific

In November 2015, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull outlined plans to overhaul how university research is funded, downgrading the significance of publishing in little-read journals and emphasising instead how knowledge produced in universities has been used by those working in the policy and business worlds.

The move throws up important questions. Have the traditional foundations of the Ivory Tower begun to crack? Is academia spluttering on a 17th century track far removed from the digital realities of the 21st century?
And should the exasperating nature of public debate be blamed partly on the fact that key insights, expertise and knowledge on critical issues are often locked away behind journal pay walls or left collecting dust on overburdened bookshelves in lonely libraries?

Most importantly how can universities in the 21st century become more relevant to the demands of non-academic audiences, and how can the potential of academia to play a constructive role in public debate be realised?

In this seminar, the first in the Bell School’s Horizons 2016 series, an expert panel will answer these questions, looking at how and why universities can ensure their continued relevance – and make a difference.
Speakers will look at how the public role and social impact of universities can be hotwired for today; why academia has failed to better inform public political debate and policy thinking; and how universities can better work with civil society, government and business. The panel will also investigate what knowledge and expertise those working in public policy actually want from academia.

The event is free and open to the public. A light lunch will be provided beforehand and registration is essential.


Dr Mathew Davies is fellow and head of the Department of International Relations, Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs with a particular interest in international relations theory’s role in the real world.

Dr Tamson Pietsch is an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at the University of Sydney specialising in how ideas are made and shared – both yesterday and today.

Professor Quentin Grafton is professor of Economics at Crawford School of Public Policy and Editor-in-Chief of Policy Forum. He has a particular interest in academics’ impact on public and political debate, and policy thinking.

Nigel Stanier is a Director of the Strategic Analysis and Policy Section at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Hosted each year by the Coral Bell School of Asia Pacific Affairs, the Horizons seminar series aims to enhance research innovation by supporting and showcasing collaborative, interdisciplinary, innovative and accessible thinking and work in Asia-Pacific affairs.

The 2016 series, "Digital vision: agency, power and the future of Asia-Pacific affairs", explores how and why academics need to take scholarly debate and knowledge to wider audiences.