ANU’s Schmidt sets out the future-building role of universities

Universities are “the most critical of all institutions in finding the pathways to a prosperous and sustainable global future,” ANU VC Brian Schmidt told a Singapore conference yesterday. To help chart that path was “the key motivation for me to leave my very comfortable and largely uncomplicated lifestyle as Nobel Laureate, to become vice chancellor,” he said.

Professor Schmidt set out strategies and roles for ANU including;

* a a whole ecosystem from proof of concept to late stage capital “to help our ideas blossom.” “My goal is make sure any good idea of the university is as useful for society as possible.”

* all researchers teaching and all students having research opportunities as part of their degrees

* encouraging risk-taking, “we need to find a way to support our staff when they fail – or when results are slow because the problem is hard.  We are looking at safety nets, seed funding, and income contingent loans as part of the mix to support researchers”

* protecting “unfiltered pursuit of knowledge” … “it is essential for us to fight all attempts that seek to hinder its pursuit, if we are going to be able to advance prosperity for all on a global and sustainable scale.”

Perhaps most important, Professor Schmidt said universities are where societies confront and resolve change.

“Many of the barriers for our future prosperity are not technology driven – they are societal. The political institutions in democracies around the world are finding it very difficult to have healthy debates around fundamental issues affecting our societies to enable sensible policy responses. Universities are a safe place where the conversations that societies need to have happen, can happen.”


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