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Amanda’s opening remarks: From crisis to reinvention

Amanda Flouch’s opening remarks at the AFR Higher Education Summit 2022

“Deloitte is privileged to be partnering with the AFR on its Summit series again and we are particularly proud of the longstanding association we have had with this important Higher Education Summit. 

Over the past month, I have been buoyed by the energy and excitement of University campus open days. And today, I am thrilled to be able to meet so many of you in person.

Before I begin, I would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet today, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation, and recognise their continuing connection to this land and its waterways.

It is a privilege to pay respect to their Elders, knowledge holders, and to all the generations of First Nations’ peoples who have nurtured their unceded sovereign lands for over 80,000 years and continue to do so today. I also extend my respects to those First Nations people joining us today.

I celebrate the growing representation of First Nations educators in senior leadership roles across all our universities, this is something we should all be proud of.

I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous role all corners of our education sector can play to enhance opportunities to build skills and create better educational outcomes for First Nations peoples. 

Today we are joined by respected senior speakers from government, business and industry. To everyone here or dialling in virtually – welcome!

For those of you who don’t know me well, I’m passionate about finding new and powerful ways for industry to partner and collaborate with the higher education sector; to play to our respective strengths – and maximise our joint potential to make sure the higher education sector plays a major role in Australia’s ongoing economic recovery and prosperity.  

The theme of today’s summit is: From crisis to reinvention.

To me, this is an open invitation for all of us to share perspectives, test thinking and to explore responses to some of the sector’s biggest opportunities and most pressing challenges. 

As you all know, we are facing some of the biggest social, scientific and economic challenges in history – from climate change to geopolitical tensions and, of course, economic recovery from the pandemic. With disruption and adversity comes opportunity. And our new federal government also brings promise of structural and policy change.   

As we continue to navigate a path out of the disruption, the global and domestic economic outlook is characterised by uncertainty and volatility.

Over the past two years the sector is to be commended for taking bold and difficult decisions and demonstrating resilience during these unprecedented times.

There are clear opportunities for our universities that will frame today’s discussions.

Of these I would like to highlight five imperatives:

1. Firstly, to continue to lead and engage in the sustainability agenda

Universities play a critical role in meeting the climate challenge - in the development of skills and knowledge; in innovation in research and new technologies that can be commercially scaled; and taking a leadership role in decarbonising University’s operations.

2. We also need to continue to adapt and respond to the skills needs of the Australian and global economy

As Australia faces the largest skills shortage in decades, addressing this acute issue continues to be a key focus of all levels of government and industry which will require new solutions and partnering approaches. 
The timing of this AFR Summit comes a few days before the government’s Jobs & Skills Summit. Our deliberations here should be about structural changes to the sector, of course. But also, the role the sector can play in defining and developing the skills we need in future, and how those skills will fuel resilience and dynamism in our economy.

A great example of a new model underpinned by partnerships is the Cyber Academy, recently launched in NSW to help close the nation’s widening cyber-security skills gap. Government and Deloitte co-designed a unique ‘earn-as-you-learn’ degree with TAFE NSW, the University of Wollongong and Swinburne University of Technology. The new program combines blended study with guaranteed employment.

I love that every partner plays to their strengths in this new education model to benefit the student experience and our economy, because graduation students are able to immediately contribute with their newly acquired – highly industry relevant – cyber skills.  

3.    Thirdly, we need to expand and strengthen partnerships with industry and government

 Industry and higher education partnerships is the focus of the Deloitte thought piece launched today – Co-designing Futures: Higher Education and Industry partnering for impact.

Thank you to many of you who have been involved in this research, which evidences the strong demand from industry to expand partnerships with higher education into areas across workforce development, research and commercialisation. To maximise this potential, universities will need to focus on building the right capabilities and models of partnering.  However, the onus on establishing, sustaining and growing partnerships doesn’t rest solely with universities. Industry must also come to the party with a clear strategy and understanding of the sector.

4.    Another imperative is to continue to explore revenue diversification and international strategies in a substantially changed landscape

5.    And last but certainly not least, we need to continue to lead with courage, creativity and collaboration to successfully overcome crises and strive for reinvention.

Let’s make the most of this opportunity to reflect on what’s working well, and what can be done better or differently to ensure the sector stays one step ahead of disruption.
Welcome, again. Thank you to all our speakers and thank you for joining us in person and virtually".

If you would like to learn more about the future of higher education, visit our AFR Government Services Summit 2022 page