We watch China’s university education and research with awe and envy says the Group of Eight’s Thomson

Group of Eight CEO Vicki Thomson must have delighted many in her Shanghai audience yesterday when she spoke at the 7th International Conference at World Class Universities. Ministers in Canberra who will closely read her speech, not so much.

“It is fair to say that from Australia we watch with awe, and more than a little envy, at the determined prioritisation of university education and research in China,” Ms Thomson said.

She went on to set a stark contrast with Australia, with six prime ministers in ten years and nine education ministers in a decade. And while Australia has arguably its most highly educated federal cabinet, “they have yet to translate this support into policy settings that would see Australia’s universities and their research capacity nurtured.”

Nor, she said, is there community support for what universities achieve.

“A higher percentage of our community than ever before can now access higher education, but, in parallel, universities are encountering a tide of community and political hostility.”

The Group of Eight, she added, was up to the challenge, building, in the words of a Chinese proverb windmills, not walls, as the populist winds blow strong. “The future is in our hands and we are there to deliver it,” she said.

It was a speech of many strengths but the bit her Chinese listeners will remember will be the six PMs in a decade – it couldn‘t, CMM suspects they will say, happen here.


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