For the first time in its 72-year history, the IAU has appointed an Australian university leader to serve as its President. The role provides an influential global platform for advocacy and promotion of the importance of higher education to society.
Professor Andrew Deeks, Vice Chancellor and President of Murdoch University in Western Australia, was appointed President of the International Association of Universities at its recent 16th General Conference at University College Dublin.
The conference focused on the Relevance and Value of Universities to Future Society and welcomed over 300 delegates from some 86 countries around the world.
The IAU was established in 1950 as an initiative of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It is an independent, non-government organisation representing more than 600 higher education institutions and organisations from 130 countries.
Professor Deeks told delegates in Dublin he would advocate and educate stakeholders about the value and relevance of universities as communities for learning, scholarship, research and societal benefit.
“I want to counter a view of universities as corporations with customers, or as factories to turn out job-ready graduates in areas prescribed by governments,” he said.
“We do not sell products, and our students are not customers. We recruit students to become lifelong members of our communities of scholarship, and we offer them journeys of learning and discovery which prepare them for life in an uncertain and changing world.”
Professor Deeks’ four-year term coincides with the roll-out of a new IAU strategy – Higher Education Matters in a World of Transformation – which focuses on four key priorities: globally engaged and value-based leadership; internationalisation for society and the global common good; higher education for sustainable development; and digital transformation of higher education.
The strategy recognises the need for a global movement to reinvigorate and redefine the public purpose of universities in in the face of changes in ethos, education, research practices and student expectations.
Professor Deeks said his appointment also provided a platform to raise the contributions being made by Australian universities to resolve global challenges.
“I will be encouraging Australian universities that are not members of the IAU to consider joining,” he said.
“The IAU has for more than 70 years been a respected international voice for higher education and now, perhaps more than ever given the multiple challenges facing the planet, we need to come together as a sector to facilitate collaboration and cooperation among higher education institutions everywhere.”