Universities Australia Chief Executive Catriona Jackson
‘Education innovation and cross-sector collaboration: the solution to addressing global challenges’
Thank you to the China Education Association for International Exchange for the invitation to come to Beijing.
It was very good to see colleagues from the CEAIE in Australia earlier this year, and I am very pleased to be able to return the courtesy by accepting your kind offer.
We have been working with the CEAIE for over 20 years, and I am very pleased to be able to resume that relationship after too long apart.
It is an absolute privilege to be here on behalf Australia’s universities.
I’d like to acknowledge all my fellow speakers here today, including:
Chinese Minister of Education, HUAI Jinpeng
Republic of Korea Vice Minister of Education, Jang Sang-yoon
China Education Association for International Exchange Secretary General, YU Yunfeng
China Education Association for International Exchange President, LIU Limin
UNESCO Executive Board Chairperson, Tamara Rastovac Siamashvili
I love attending events like this.
People coming together, from all corners of the world, united by our passion for, and commitment to education.
It’s what binds us as individuals.
But it goes a lot further than that.
Education binds communities.
It binds populations.
And it binds nations.
Education creates lasting friendships and partnerships.
It’s a bridge that transforms lives and brings the world closer together.
Look around this room.
Government leaders, diplomats, educators, and experts from 60+ countries.
We’re all here because we believe in the power of education.
We’re here because we want to make a difference.
We’re here because we want to make the world a better place.
And we can do all this, and more, using the power of education.
In Australia, I have the tremendous honour of representing 39 universities.
It might not seem like a large number in this room.
I know here in Beijing alone there are around 90 universities, and some 3,000 more spread right across China.
Australia’s universities are strong and by international standards, they are large.
They educate around one and a half million students each year between them.
A third of those students come from overseas, from more than 140 nations.
Around 150,000 from China.
Our universities are also unique.
They serve a huge range of varied communities.
But all of them are united by one overarching purpose.
That is, to make our nation, our region, and the world stronger, safer, and more prosperous.
Education and research have the power to do that – for everyone’s benefit.
To lift individuals and communities out of poverty.
To help people and nations realise ambition and aspiration.
To prepare us for new challenges and opportunities.
To drive change, drive economies, and drive progress.
The power of education and research is limitless.
It is not constrained by borders.
Education and research are central pillars of Australia’s foreign policy.
These vital endeavours feature in many of our bilateral relationships.
With China, India, the Philippines, Indonesia – so many of our global peers.
Our universities enable this, driving engagement and collaboration.
We have around 10,000 formal partnerships with overseas institutions.
Almost 1,700 of them are with China.
Research, exchange and mobility initiatives, and scholarship programs.
These links facilitate knowledge sharing and problem solving across oceans and borders.
We have the support of our government in doing this.
Funding for our researchers to connect with their international peers.
Australian and Chinese researchers are working together right now to manage hearing loss in babies.
And to identify and analyse infectious disease transmission.
These are life-changing projects.
Our students are also supported to pursue study in countries other than their own.
These opportunities are creating a more connected, knowledgeable, and skilled world at a time it is needed most.
In Australia, and globally, there is a growing sense that we need more of what our universities do.
More university-educated professionals to fill skills gaps, boost productivity and drive sustainable economic growth.
More research to respond to the complex and varied challenges we are all facing.
If we want to find the best solutions to the biggest challenges, we need education and research.
We need universities.
The world needs our expertise, our innovation, and our research.
We need our best minds to help us solve our biggest challenges.
Like coming to grips with the world’s complexity.
Transitioning to clean energy.
Arresting declining productivity.
Universities are full of people looking over the horizon, ready to navigate the future.
They are places where new ideas are tested.
And places that promote and progress knowledge and skills.
Universities can do in the second half of this century what the railroads did for the second half of the last century.
That is, to serve as the focal point for growth – economically, socially, and technologically.
Australia’s universities are up to it – for our benefit and our peers’.
For the benefit of our people, across national boundaries.
We have some of the best universities in the world.
And some of the most popular.
In the last decade, Australia has helped educate more than three million students from around the world.
Right now, more international students are studying at our universities than at any other time in our history.
Almost half a million students from more than 140 countries.
From China to Columbia, India to Indonesia, and everywhere in between.
These brilliant students can take their pick of countries to study in.
They choose Australia because of the quality of our education, the safety of our streets, and the sincerity of our welcome.
We are better off for it and so are their countries.
International education helps build understanding between nations.
When students return to their home country, they take with them the skills and knowledge to become productive, innovative citizens.
They also take with them an understanding of, and affinity for Australia.
This helps bind our people, making us all more resilient in good times and bad.
We felt the absence of our international students every day during the pandemic.
We have become used to students from all over the world, many from China, filling our campuses and our communities.
They make Australia a better place, with their wisdom, their diversity, and their hard work.
Our global students also make a major economic contribution.
They contribute tens of billions to dollars to our economy.
And they support around 250,000 jobs.
None of this has happened by accident.
Australia absolutely understands the importance of education and its power.
Six decades of careful strategic work by our universities has got us here.
We are now the world’s third biggest provider of international education.
But we aren’t sitting still.
We take our role in international education seriously for the benefits it brings us and our peers.
We love welcoming international students to our shores.
We also love taking Australian education to the world.
To give as many people as possible access to a world-class university education.
A ticket to endless opportunity.
We do a good job of this.
Australia’s universities have had a presence in many nations across our region for more than 20 years.
There are real opportunities to do more.
Our international peers are increasingly looking to Australia to help educate their young people.
We are up for it.
The world needs more of what universities do.
That is something we all agree on – the power of education and research.
It’s why we’re here today.
And the more we do together, the better for us all.
Together, we can make the most of all our talent and all our ingenuity.
By encouraging our people to study – at home or abroad.
By encouraging our researchers to collaborate – for domestic and global benefit.
We must work together, as nations, and, more importantly, as peers, to continue to invest in our knowledge assets, our people.
It is these people who will power our societies and take us into the future.
A future where we are fully equipped to tackle the great challenges of our time.
The list is endless.
It is through education and research that we can foster strong and resilient communities and economies.
That is the power of education and research.
Let’s continue to use and benefit from it, together.