The benefits of being young and agile.
You will all know by now that UniSA leapt 25 places up the Times Higher Education’s (THE) list of the world’s top 200 young universities. We’re now number 32 on that global list, the country’s fastest moving young university and ranked number four in Australia for universities aged under 50.
Late last year the other international rankings giant, QS, rated us at number 24 of universities aged under 50.
That we can achieve this sort of growth in just over 25 years is due to many things, not least of which is our ability to actually get things done. We’re Australia’s University of Enterprise. We partner with business and government to create new knowledge that will add value to the economy and we educate those people who will eventually run that economy.
End of house ad. But seriously, being young and agile means that when we want to make changes or try new things we don’t have to wade through decades or centuries of past practice. We don’t have set attitudes that prevent change and we’re not bound by history that dictates how things ought to be done. (Which usually means how they used to be done or how they’re not being done at all because somebody once tried and failed.)
We are Number 1 in Australia and Number 1 in South Australia for industry income which means that we are regarded as Australia’s best place to bring problems that need solving for industries and the professions. Our reputation for translating fundamental and curiosity-driven research into practice by providing new solutions for problems and new ideas for industry and society is well known and appreciated. We are the second most important university in Australia for collaborative and solutions-focused research through the work we do for Cooperative Research Centres due to our unique ability to work across disciplines.
The benefits of being young and agile mean that silos have very little chance of standing in the way of progress. Their concrete hasn’t had time to set. When there is a problem we bring our best people to focus on it. We do that in research, in teaching and in the way we run our professional lives.
During our recent graduation ceremonies I was struck by what the writer and national treasure, Thomas Keneally (to whom we gave an honorary doctorate) said in his Occasional Address as he pondered why there were so many human institutions still existing even though there was no technological reason for them to survive.
“It still astonishes me how well the old-fashioned print book, the Gutenberg-style book, continues even though it is perfectly possible to publish online exclusively,” he said. “I think we like to hold books because we are tactile animals. As things stand, we still like the experience of measuring our way through an artefact of paper and inks. After all, we have no technological use for cinemas either, yet we go to them because we are social animals and we love laughing or being scared in a pack. There is similarly no technical reason why universities should not be entirely virtual. But we prefer that if we go to tertiary studies it should still be in a physical institution, one we walk through to establish a set of rich social and intellectual contacts.”
Thomas Keneally’s conclusion was that technology cannot always change the sort of creatures we are, that we are each a peculiar kind of gifted animal and angel.
This university has a diverse and vibrant student body and it takes a diverse and vibrant staff to make sure they are educated and ready to be the creative thinkers and innovators our society needs now and into the future.
Young and agile, meet relevant and useful.
Professor David Lloyd
Vice Chancellor and President