To mark Westpac’s 200th anniversary year in 2017, the bank has announced it is setting up a fund of $100 million to finance around 100 scholarships and awards a year from a wide range of disciplines for undergraduates, graduates and post-doctoral researchers. The scholarships will have a strong emphasis on innovation, technology, Asian study and assisting future leaders.Chief Executive of Universities Australia, Belinda Robinson said the announcement of the fund was a much needed fillip and vote of confidence in business-university sector collaboration.
“Business working in conjunction with higher education and research can contribute so much more for building long-term national productivity and prosperity than each pursuing their goals independently,” said Ms Robinson.
“I strongly endorse Westpac Chief Executive Gail Kelly’s reported statement that ‘education is the single most important factor in the nation’s competitiveness’”, she said.
“The Westpac decision is far more than an act of generosity.
“Westpac knows a thing or two about the difference between investment and cost.
“Westpac and the other corporate and individual philanthropists who have made the decision to support education, innovation and research, have done so because they recognise that these are strategic investments that strengthen Australia’s future prospects and national well-being”, Ms Robinson said.
Compared with other similar countries, the level of collaboration between business and higher education and public research institutions in Australia is disturbingly low.
“This will need to change if the economy and society is to realise the full potential of Australia’s tremendous intellectual and research capacity.
“Westpac has established itself as an industry leader in acknowledging the imperative of education, research and innovation for driving national well-being,” Ms Robinson said.
Westpac’s announcement coincides with the launch of Universities Australia’s public awareness campaign, ‘Keep it Clever’, reinforcing the role of universities and research as the essential ingredients for long-term national success.