ANU Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt AC has set out the University's vision for 2025, as it emerges from one of the toughest years in its history and approaches its 75th anniversary.
"Let's face it, it was a year from hell," Professor Schmidt told ANU staff and students during his State of the University address at Llewellyn Hall on Wednesday.
"Fire, ice, contagion, anarchy.
"These things forced big changes upon us."
Professor Schmidt outlined four clear goals for the University for the year 2025:
providing a student experience equal to the world's best
conducting research that transforms society
meeting our national responsibility through a renewed compact with the Australian Government; and
being an equitable and inclusive university of choice.
Professor Schmidt said he admired how students kept on learning without the benefits of being on campus during the pandemic.
"They did it brilliantly, adapting and succeeding academically in a suddenly different learning environment," he said.
"But now they want to come back to campus.
"And we have a moral obligation to ensure they return to the best campus experience we can provide. We need to seize the moment and begin to make our campus a far better place to learn."
Professor Schmidt said learning at university is not about ticking boxes.
"And it's not about accumulating units, it's about being able to solve problems with whatever challenges life throws at you. More than that, it's about getting an education - an education in life," he said.
The pandemic and the Black Summer bushfires have demonstrated that the role of universities in a crisis is essential, Professor Schmidt said.
"You need calm voices responding with ideas they know will work. That's what our experts did in 2020 in response to COVID-19 and the deadly bushfires," he said.
"Another huge but surely obtainable ambition is to close the gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and other Australians."
Professor Schmidt said the University is asking the Government to "make us a national partner in the creation of a better future for our nation and to help us find the funding to do the work".
"There's so much more great research we can do if we have the resources," he said.
Professor Schmidt said to help transform the nation, ANU must get the very best out of our people.
"That means becoming a more equitable and inclusive university of choice," he said.
Professor Schmidt concluded his address by announcing that as ANU marks its 75th year in August, the University will launch its next Strategic Plan.
"Tomorrow, we will officially open consultations and I want every person at ANU to participate," he said.
ANU Chancellor Julie Bishop, in her address, said the University commits anew to its mission in its 75th year.
"Without doubt, the world has changed significantly since I was last in Canberra in February 2020 for this very event - and yet, the mission of our university, our goals and our purpose, remain unchanged," Ms Bishop said.
"The way universities contribute to the world should be clear - we have the knowledge, the education and the people to make change and to encourage others to think differently in the interests of making a better world."
You can read the full speech here.