VC's Update - A new funding scheme and great traditions

16 August 2019

Hi everyone,

I spent last weekend trying to stay warm during the polar blast - with the excitement of snow accentuated by the Office of the Vice Chancellor's own Chris Price having his eight-second video demonstrating that it really does snow in Australia to his English colleagues, going viral. The strategic communications team has asked that Chris wear an ANU jumper in all future posts.

Last week I attended a meeting with the Minister for Education, the Hon Dan Tehan MP, in Wollongong with many of my fellow Vice-Chancellors. The meeting focused on a new funding scheme proposal for the higher education sector, rewarding performance by unlocking additional funding, through measured outcomes in graduate employment, student success, student experience and enrolment of Indigenous, disadvantaged and rural students. Given that the University is deeply committed to our students, we should see this as an opportunity to be rewarded for our commitment to create a student environment equal to any university in the world. You can be assured I will be working with the Minister and the Department to make sure the program doesn't lose its focus of improving student outcomes.

On Friday evening, I returned to campus to attend the launch of the Humanising Machine Intelligence (HMI) project. This was one of the 2018 Grand Challenges project finalists, and the team will receive $1.5 million in funding per year for the next three years. Fundamentally, this project is about encoding the values of society into the emerging technology around AI, big data, and automated machines. As we learned at the launch, this does not simply mean designing machine intelligent systems that 'do the right thing', but rather designing systems that help make humanity more humane. This is a non-trivial and highly interdisciplinary program that brings together philosophy, strategic studies, and computer science, amongst others, to tackle this rapidly emerging area of global interest. They'll be hosting more interesting talks over the coming three years which are definitely worth attending.

This week I also attended my second Visiting Fellows Dinner at University House, hosted by the Australian Studies Institute, where academics from across campus come together to share in collaborative discussions, led by one of our Visiting Fellows. Professor Alison Renteln, visiting from USC, challenged us to think about how we should deal with multi-cultural values when setting and administering the law. You had to be there as part of the conversation to appreciate how hard a question this really is - and yet we are making decisions on a continual basis in our society in this vexed area. 

With the Visiting Fellows Dinner, I am trying to bring back one of the great traditions of universities of the past, where we took the time to talk across all disciplines about the big issues of the day. There are only a handful of these dinners left this year, and I encourage you to register and participate - places are limited.

This week is also National Science Week and there have been plenty of events and activities celebrating science around Canberra. The Science Society ANU has been shining a light on great research with their 'illumination' theme, as well as holding social gatherings to engage students with the science community. Last night there was a bonfire at the Fenner Fire pit and I hear they enjoyed a DJ, s'mores and of course a sausage sizzle. While not formally part of National Science Week, we also hosted a Group of Eight Summit on the Space Industry on Tuesday. I predict lots of action in the coming years, and not just in Science and Engineering, but also in law, health, strategic studies, just to name a few areas. 

Next week I will be off to Singapore and Malaysia to meet with members of our alumni community, as well as some local government and business leaders. One event is a panel discussion on 'FinTech Vs Banking: which sector controls the future of money'. Our alumni, it turns out, have views on all sides of this issue - from FinTech entrepreneurs, to Bank Leaders, to the Regulators.  It never ceases to amaze me about how much our alumni get up to in shaping the world.

Enjoy the weekend!



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Comment by Phil
2.15pm 20 Aug 2019

I was wondering whether there was any concern from yourself or the other VCs that measuring student success by short term employment outcomes might undervalue some courses of study, and some of the intrinsic value of higher education.