While information is everywhere, knowledge is not



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The idea of a university for the future is worth contemplating, now more than ever, The University of South Australia Vice Chancellor and President, Professor David Lloyd told a CEDA audience in Adelaide.

“Right now, while information is everywhere, knowledge is not,” he said.

“The university of the future has to advance new knowledge through research, ideally research that is aligned to use. 

“It has to transfer that knowledge not only to the education of students but to the wider society through partnerships, through public policy, through public discourse and through leading by example.”

Professor Lloyd said universities have to move towards the provision of tailored education on demand. 

“We have to move to an education where the assumed truth of information is constantly challenged,” he said. 

“We have to adopt new ways to admit and to assess in our university of the future.  

“And the idea that ours is the only input of value is arrogant and archaic.”

Professor Lloyd said in modern Australia, education and vocational education in particular, gets a bad rap. 

“Vocational education is looked down on as somehow lesser, now I think that’s quite short sighted,” he said. 

“Back in 1891 Leland Stanford wanted all of his students of California to have a practical education with utility, and with relevance, excellence and access all present in equal measure. 

“I think that a university for the future could do worse than aspire to revisiting those goals.”

Also speaking at the event, Universities Australia Chief Executive, Catriona Jackson said universities should be engines of economic and social renewal and of hope. 

“What do we do when economic circumstances, global shifts, the rise of technology, mean that everything is changing the world we live in all the time? Where do we look for certainty, for renewal, for hope?” she said.

“Well let’s look at what happened here on the ground, look to the old Mitsubishi factory in Tonsley Park – it has been transformed by the South Australian Government, by Flinders University and by industry into one of the best innovation districts.

“Over at the University of Adelaide, renewal comes in many forms but there’s ThincLab, sitting across three sites, it brings together students, researchers and entrepreneurs.

“Just one of the projects is mobile apps to detect melanomas.

“Then there’s the partnership between University of South Australia and Precision Components, they’re creating the world’s first fully plastic automotive mirrors, and beyond that mirrors that turn sunshine into power.

“All of these are examples of transformation, that back then I didn’t believe were possible. 

“They’re the sorts of transformation that are only possible when universities work with industries and with people and the result is revitalised economies and communities. 

“This is how you restore hope.”

Flinders University Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Robert Saint said there are close parallels with the challenges facing the university sector and the state.

“These challenges include developing productive industries that create jobs and build our economy, maintaining and further developing a skilled, productive and healthy community and developing a culture and practice of innovation and entrepreneurship,” he said.

“Universities are a key and productive partner of government, industry and community in achieving these objectives.”

The University of Adelaide Vice Chancellor and President, Professor Peter Rathjen said universities need to reinvent the socioeconomic context of our societies. 

“We don’t know what the future of work looks like, we don’t know what jobs our young people are going to be occupying,” he said.

“It is my view that in a world of unknowns, it is universities that will be the greatest levers that we have to pull to create that new socioeconomic future.”

Professor Rathjen said universities are in a strange position. 

“For 1000 years we have been important but marginal to society, we’ve taught about .4 per cent of the population,” he said.

“But we’re challenged now, because if I’m right and we’re the key to the future then no longer are we commentators, we are participants. 

“And we have to accept the fact that society needs us, will resource us, but will require things of us that are quite different from what we’ve had before.”

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