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News - Grand Challenge Lecture: Going for the Higher Fruit - Universities Post Peak Public Funding @ GP

11th August 2017

The metaphor of a crossroads has been used several times in higher education, here and in other countries. But there is no doubt that, in 2017, we are at a critical juncture with the relationship between government and universities. Professor Peter Coaldrake AO, QUT's Vice-Chancellor will address this topic at the Grand Challenge Lecture on 11 August.


Society has never needed universities to be more effective and pervasive, but government is clearly equivocal in its support, and both here and around the world we seem to be caught up in political paralysis. There is a strong case for R&D funding as an essential and productive investment for the nation, but apart from medical research it struggles to attract public support. Meanwhile, funding for university teaching has been held constant in real terms for two decades, with students expected to carry an increased share of the cost. Student loans have been seen as a pain-free way of expanding higher education in Australia and in other places, particularly the UK, but the growing costs are becoming apparent. Finding a better path forward cannot rely on simply recruiting more overseas students. Nor can it depend on government-designed incentives for universities to simply lift performance and efficiency, or hoping that enlightened governments will inject extra funding to boost the status quo. The low hanging fruit of reform has been picked, we now need to tackle more complex and intractable issues if universities are to secure the support they need to advance the public interest.


Professor Peter Coaldrake AO (QUT Vice-Chancellor)

Professor Peter Coaldrake AO is Vice-Chancellor of QUT, a position he took up in April 2003. He completes his term in December 2017. Peter Coaldrake is a dual Fulbright Scholar and is the author or editor of a number of books and monographs including most recently as co-author (with Dr Lawrence Stedman), of Raising the Stakes: Gambling with the Future of Universities (UQP, 2013; second edition 2016). He is also the author of Working the System: Government in Queensland (UQP, 1989). Peter Coaldrake is the National Chair of the Fulbright Scholarship Selection Committee and of the Editorial Board of the Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management. He is also a trustee of both the Queensland Performing Arts Trust and the Queensland Museum Foundation. Peter was Chair of the Queensland Heritage Council from 2011-2016. He also served as Chair of Universities Australia (UA), between 2009-2011, and in 2014 he re-joined that Board for a further three year term. Earlier in his career, he spent four years as Chair of Queensland’s Public Sector Management Commission. Professor Coaldrake was recognised for his services to higher education with the award of an Officer of the Order of Australia in January 2011. In 2017, he was named as a recipient of a Queensland Great Award by the Premier of Queensland, and he was awarded the 2016 Asia Pacific Leadership Award by the Council for Advancement of Support of Education (CASE).


A livestream of this event will be shown at


At the conclusion of the lecture, there will be a brief presentation to acknowledge the 2017 recipient of the Siganto Foundation Medal, an annual award given to an outstanding early career QUT researcher for excellence in engineering research.


Following this special lecture, light refreshments will be served in The Cube.

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