The University’s social and civic role: time for an appraisal

A message from the Associate Vice-Chancellor (Queensland) Professor Jim Nyland:

Next month ACU Brisbane’s local First People’s unit, Weemala Indigenous Higher Education, will celebrate its 30-year anniversary by inviting all its students (past and present) to an historic event on our McAuley at Banyo campus.  With this in mind I am pleased to be able to share with you the video from this year’s 7th Annual Vice Chancellor/Archbishop Catholic Stakeholder dinner and panel discussion event, themed “Solidarity: Closing the Gap together” which tackled pressing national issues facing our First Peoples and raised $25,000 in the process.

Australia’s only Indigenous Chancellor, Professor Tom Calma AO (University of Canberra) and Professor Angela Barney-Leitch, Pro Vice Chancellor, Indigenous Strategy (QUT) were two of the keynote speakers at this year’s Engagement Australia conference themed The Role of the Civic University in Australia: The Making of a City Region, which was hosted by the ACU McAuley at Banyo campus in Brisbane last month. Reflecting on the range, the reach and the depth of all contributions made to this national conference it is striking just how far universities have come in defining and shaping a concept of engagement.  From the intellectual issues of a post-truth world to university communities, towns and cities of future Australia; and from action strategies for economic development to the meaning of civic life – the 150 strong senior university leaders and practitioners from across Australia were treated to insightful, stimulating and at times controversial debates and ideas. Please enjoy the full wrap-up of the conference and conference presentations - including one on ACU, by Dr Matthew Pink, National Community Engagement Manager.

The role of the modern civic university in Australia offers a route which says we should examine what we do and think in order to produce insight and understanding which can change and transform our cities and regions through the creation of knowledge for a social purpose.  In this context the term ‘civic’ means local.  If a university is in some meaningful and strategic way to be part of its local and regional community, it must be willing to prioritise its relations with that locality.  Recent national events hosted on the Brisbane campus have helped many university leaders and practitioners think through difficult challenges and reach decisions in their ‘heimat’ – their own place and locality and culture where it will be meaningful – or not!  A recent appraisal of the University’s social and civic role is offered in the Campus Review opinion piece.

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