The future of higher education – Gareth Evans in conversation with Brian Schmidt




On 14 June CPD and ANU invited leaders from government, business, civil society, academia and the media to discuss how the future of higher education can significantly contribute and influence public policy. The Dialogue featured ANU Chancellor and former Foreign Minister, the Hon Gareth Evans, in conversation with the Vice-Chancellor of ANU and 2011 Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt. This roundtable was held as part of Centre for Policy Development’s Effective Government Program.

Policymakers have incredibly difficult jobs. They have to design policies today for an uncertain future facing our economy, society and region. If we want to find answers to future challenges and craft suitable policies to tackle them, we need to achieve best practice performance in combining research, education and engagement. We need institutions in place that allow researchers, policymakers and the public to share ideas, work together and engage genuinely in developing long-term policies that benefit society.

Key points of the The future of higher education discussion

The key questions at heart of The future of higher education Dialogue were:

  • What are the best practices in taking quality research to policymakers and working with them to produce policy change?
  • How can universities pair their nonpartisan approach with their research quality to advocate to governments on some of the harder and more complex challenges we face?
  • What is the role of universities in supporting better policy development today and helping to develop the policymakers of tomorrow
The future of higher education

The interactive discussion commenced with some opening remarks by ANU Vice Chancellor Brian Schmidt. Brian emphasised the significant contribution universities can and should make to public policy, arguing that they were a critical provider of evidence-based data analysis, and ideas to policy makers. He stressed ANU’s unique position and its longstanding public policy connections in Canberra and beyond. However, he said ANU and universities generally still have a long way to go to realise their full potential in supporting better policy development.

His opening remarks were followed by a wide-ranging discussion with a diverse and expert audience, moderated by Gareth Evans. 

Other key points of The future of higher education discussion included:

  • The need for universities to have a greater understanding of how their students (and staff) are engaging in the public policy making process. 
  • The potential of journalists to open the gates to public policy in a changing media landscape. 
  • The idea of the value of conversations and the visible desire of people to contemplate policy issues and share their ideas in constructive conversations.

Participants included: Annabel Brown (CPD), Ben Jensen (CEO, Learning First), Elaine Miles (Creative Services Consultant, IBIS World), Gemma Henderson (Principal, BCG), John Wiseman (Deputy Director, Melbourne Sustainable Society Insitute), Kerry-Ann Hugo (Advancement Manager, ANU), Michael Rowland (ABC), Peter Binks (CEO, Business/Higher Education Roundtable), Phil Ruthven (Founder & Director, IBIS World), Sam Hurley (Policy Director, CPD), Sarah Wickham (Philanthropy Manager, Equity Trustees), Stuart Simson (Chair, Switch Group), Terry Moran (Chair, CPD), Victor Perton (Leadership Adviser & Advocate), Wesa Chau (Director, Cultural Intelligence).

CPD would like to thank Gareth, Brian and the team at ANU House for hosting The future of higher education event, and participants who contributed to an engaging and expert start to the ANU-CPD Policy Dialogue Series.