Developing Commonwealth networks and collaboration at Universities Australia Higher Education Conference 2018

In February 2018 ACU Secretary General, Dr Joanna Newman, and the ACU Membership team travelled to Canberra, Australia, to attend the Universities Australia (UA) Higher Education Conference 2018. As the representative body for all of Australia's 39 comprehensive universities, the UA conference was a great opportunity to meet our Australian members and also connect with other Australian universities who are not members of the ACU.

Focusing on the theme 'Future Fundamentals', the conference explored the fundamental role of universities in teaching, learning and research, as they navigate the new political, economic and technological environment – a reality facing universities all across the Commonwealth.

The importance of global networks and collaboration has never been more important. The ability for universities to be outward looking and promote values, such as, tolerance, understanding and free speech, and encourage mobility is critical to ensuring sustainable development, advancing knowledge and resilience.

Before the conference, Dr Joanna Newman spoke to all 39 vice-chancellors where she emphasised the importance of the nature of Commonwealth collaboration, stressing the diversity and strength of Commonwealth networks and their ability to contribute to solving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Highlights from the conference

Throughout the conference the membership team hosted a stand at the conference exhibition, where we were able to reconnect with colleagues from member universities and also introduce the ACU to non-member Australian universities. As a result of this we are hoping to expand our membership in Australia!

The conference also provided an opportunity to connect with some of our colleagues from UK and Canadian universities – who had sent a delegation to share knowledge and findings from its national Truth and Reconciliation Commission – and other fellow exhibitors, including Adobe, Elsevier and Unibank, some of whom we hope to work with in the future.

A particular highlight of the event was the conference dinner held at Parliament House. Dr Alan Finkel AO, Australia's Chief Scientist, gave a brilliant keynote address using board games as an analogy for running a university.

We also witnessed Sarah Ugalde, a researcher from one of our founding members – the University of Tasmania – win the Vice-Chancellors award in the Universities Australia Pitch it Clever competition for her video highlighting her work with Tasmanian oyster farmers, who are facing a devastating disease threat.

Our visit to Australia was successful – and we are currently planning a follow-up visit to engage with members and prospective members in more depth later this year. We look forward to continuing these conversations and building on the ACU's relationship with universities in Australia.

Find out more about ACU membership and how you can join here – for any further queries, email

Last modified on 29/03/2018
Tags: Australia, Canada, Internationalisation