“Complete madness” not to invest in HE: UNSW’s Jacobs

“The sector is one of the nation’s jewels” he says

Australian universities responded to the pandemic “in an exemplary fashion,” moving teaching on-line and making financial and organisational “adjustments,” despite “being excluded by government from support,” according to outgoing UNSW VC Ian Jacobs.

In an interview for a Group of Eight podcast, Professor Jacobs warns of pandemic-related “major uncertainties” in 2022 and ’23 and describes the Commonwealth funding model as “unfortunate”. “In my view as I exit, the HE sector in Australia is one of the nation’s jewels and it is complete madness not to support and invest in it,” he says.

However, Professor Jacobs is also optimistic about a change in attitude and future government support, “it’s a phase in time. I cannot imagine that anyone would seriously think it is wise for Australia to damage a sector that it has so effectively built-up over 30 years. 40, 50 years. Those in the sector and those who support the sector outside will keep on making the case and I am sure that this well reverse, there are so many positives.”

In particular, he is positive about the potential of a “discovery-translation application pipeline.”

“It’s clearly in the national interest (and) it’s all doable. The sums needed are not only small in the context of what is being thrown at the pandemic but crucially it would generate a return for the nation.”

Professor Jacobs says he hopes to see a positive proposal “very soon.”

As to UNSW which he leaves at year-end, the university acted quickly last year “preserving our strategic direction” and while there “are major uncertainties” for 2022 and ’23,” looking beyond that this is an incredibly strong sector. “