The ANU has hosted a top level meeting of the world's leading research universities this week to discuss the role of universities, research and innovation and global cohesion in a world of growing populism.
The meeting of The International Alliance of Research Universities (IARU) Presidents was the first since the United Kingdom voted to exit the European Union and Donald Trump was elected as US President. It was the second meeting of the IARU Presidents to be hosted by ANU.
The IARU brings together 11 of the world's leading research universities including ANU, the University of Oxford, ETH Zurich, the National University of Singapore, Peking University, University of California, Berkeley, University of Cambridge, University of Cape Town, University of Copenhagen, the University of Tokyo and Yale University.
ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC said the meeting came at a time of great tension between global and national challenges.
"There is an onus on universities such as ours to ensure the research we conduct benefits our citizens and informs our decision makers," Professor Schmidt said.
"This was a chance to discuss the challenges and opportunities facing our universities."
The meeting discussed regional and national trends affecting higher education, gender equality in universities, and developments in campus sustainability and the IARU Sustainability Initiative.
The meeting also discussed global cohesion and the rise of populism, and the role of leading universities in contributing to the public debate. The Presidents will speak with a panel of high-level experts on the political, economic and security challenges facing the world.
The IARU has members across nine countries and was set up to promote collaborative work on major challenges such as climate change.
The IARU offers joint courses and opportunities for students, academics and professional staff, including the Global Summer Program of student courses, a Global Internship Program, Sustainability Fellowships and staff development exchanges.
Professor Schmidt said the meeting came at an interesting time as the world struggles to understand the implications of possibly some of the most significant changes to the global political system in several decades.
"The sands are shifting. These are not ordinary times. There is a profound sense of uncertainty across the world," Professor Schmidt said.
He said Universities cannot consider themselves immune from these new forces.
"As scientists we must get used to operating in a whole new world.
"We have a responsibility to continue to search for the truth, upholding academic rigour and process."