Pandemic experiences have changed us and they have changed students. We can’t now survive by hastily putting courses on-line. The 2023 curriculum must respond to what interests students and must respect their expertise.  It should engage students as knowledge creators, not just knowledge consumers. It must embody inquiry and the role of evidence in decision-making.  This all points to the need for a more transformative approach to higher education that prepares students for citizenship; that respects and builds on what life has already taught them and develops the knowledge and capabilities required to meet the challenges of the future.

Questions need to be asked about what higher education’s goal really is. The former government thought it was about job readiness, but we all know that job readiness is a contested idea. Even if we start to think about career readiness, is that really enough? The world that today’s students inhabit is an uncertain one. It is a troubling one and it is a complex one. It is this for which students need to be prepared. Today’s students are going to have to solve the problems of climate change; work in partnership with First Nations Australians for a better future for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. They are going to have to deal with increasing poverty, inequality, conflict and population displacement. When the next pandemic hits, they will be the politicians and professionals who have to respond.

More transformative approaches to undergraduate education are needed. We can excite students and bring fresh energy to university educators through cross-fertilisation of ideas and networks. Partnerships with industry, work integrated learning, students as partners, undergraduate research, enhanced outcomes for Indigenous students and researchers and employability thinking represent different and intersecting practices that hold great integrative promise.

These different approaches should be brought together to create a higher education that truly inspires students and prepares them for the challenges of twenty-first century living and working. But are these initiatives all working towards the same goal? Are some more transformative in educational terms than others? What is missing that is essential for preparing students for an uncertain troubling and complex world?

Transformation starts with conversation. Sector leaders – staff and students – are coming together for such a conversation at the 2023 ACUR Undergraduate Research Exchange Colloquium on 1 February 2023 in Sydney – Creating career-ready graduates: The role of undergraduate research. Join us as we explore the synergies and possibilities for our undergraduate students.


Emeritus Professor Angela Brew, Australasian Council for Undergraduate Research (ACUR) [email protected]




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