Advancing the Public Benefit of Universities

9-5pm Friday 1 December 2017
Dr. Chau Chak Wing Building,
Level 3, Lecture theatre 5

 $50 waged ($0 unwaged / students / UTS staff)

Australian universities exist for broad societal benefit, they deliver public goods with public funds. They strengthen democracy, underpin citizenship, create new knowledge, build social capacity, enable social mobility and (literally) produce the professions. And over the last thirty years, with the advent of mass higher education, universities have become ever-more central to public life.

Universities exist to serve society, but what does that look like in the 21st century? Global crises persist and multiply, generating manifold social and political problems. How can universities address these problems, without being defined as self-interested, elitist or marginal? How can they help governments, graduates and wider players to provide the long-term commitment and leadership we need?

There is global recognition of the importance of publicly-funded universities. The Talloires Network of 400 universities, for instance, asserts ‘education as a universal human right’. In Australia university education is often presented more as a privilege than a right. But we all rely on graduates and the contribution they make to society, in virtually every aspect of our life. The public benefits of universities are closely connected with their effect on individual lives, and this is part of what makes universities public institutions.

This UTS symposium focuses on the university as a public institution and what that means in the 21st century. It addresses the public benefit of universities, their raison d’etre, and their role in addressing urgent questions facing society.

There are three underlying aims:

  1. To document the current dependence of society on universities, across fields, activities and sectors, drawing on public experience.
  2. To focus on the university-society nexus, how to deepen it and reimagine it to increase its effectiveness in the context of global trends.
  3. To help shift the debate on public funding of higher education from zero-sum public-private doctrines to a positive-sum focus on building social capacity.


Acknowledgement of Traditional Owners
9.00 – 9.15

Aunty Joan Tranter

Elder in Residence, University of Technology Sydney
Aunty Joan Tranter was appointed UTS’s inaugural Elder in Residence in early 2012. Aunty Joan recently retired from full-time employment at UTS following a long and distinguished career in Indigenous education and employment. Aunty Joan was UTS’s longest serving Indigenous staff member and she was recently awarded a UTS Distinguished Service Award for her contribution to university life.

VC Welcome to UTS
9.15 – 9.30

Attila Brungs

Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Technology Sydney
The Vice-Chancellor and President, Attila Brungs, is the University’s Chief Executive Officer. Professor Brungs is a Rhodes Scholar, with a Doctorate in Inorganic Chemistry from Oxford University, and recipient of the University Medal in Industrial Chemistry from UNSW. He has been a researcher in both industry and academia, with interests in the area of heterogeneous catalysis.

Some of Professor Brungs’ present key appointments include the Federal Government Research Data Infrastructure Committee; the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council; Convenor, NSW Vice-Chancellor’s Committee; Chair, UniProjects; and the Federal Government’s National University Precincts Advisory Committee. His experience includes many distinguished past board and committee memberships, including not-for-profit organisations, in addition to numerous state and federal government and institutional appointments.

Plenary ‘Universities and the public good’
9.30 – 10.30

Marc Stears

Macquarie University
Marc Stears is a political thinker and academic. He was previously Chief Executive of the New Economics Foundation, Chief Speechwriter to the UK Labour Party and Professor of Political Theory at Oxford University. He has recently taken up a Professional Fellowship at Macquarie University. His published works focus mainly on progressive political movements in the UK and the USA.

Raewyn Connell

University of Sydney
Raewyn Connell, BA (Melb), PhD (Syd), is Professor Emerita of the University of Sydney, and a Life Member of the NTEU. She has held visiting appointments at the University of Toronto, Harvard University, and Ruhr-Universität Bochum. Raewyn has conducted applied studies and given policy advice to governments about poverty and education, AIDS prevention, gender equity, and other fields. Her other research agendas include adolescence, intellectual labour, and sexuality. Raewyn’s best-known books concern masculinities, the social dimension of gender, and social thought from the global South. She has researched extensively on intellectual workers.

Morning Tea: 10.30 – 11.00


Social and Research Impact of Universities
11.00 – 12.00

Verity Firth

Executive Director Social Justice, University of Technology Sydney
Verity Firth is the Executive Director, Social Justice at the University of Technology Sydney. She is currently spearheading the development of the University’s Social Impact Framework, a first of its kind in the Australian university sector.

Verity has over ten years’ experience at the very highest levels of government and the not for profit sector in Australia. Before coming to UTS, she has been working in the Australian education sector, first as Minister for Education and Training in New South Wales (2008-2011) and then as the Chief Executive of the Public Education Foundation.

Stuart Macintyre

University of Melbourne
Stuart Macintyre is Emeritus Laureate Professor of the University and a Professorial Fellow of the School of Historical and Philosophical Studies. He was president of the Academy of the Social Sciences in Australia from 2007 to 2009. With Alison Ashford, he edited the Cambridge History of Australia (2013). His most recent books are Australia’s Boldest Experiment: War and Reconstruction in the 1940s (2015).And No End of a Lesson: Australia’s Unified National System of Higher Education, which was published last month.

James Goodman

University of Technology Sydney
James Goodman conducts research into socio-political change and climate justice. He draws from a disciplinary background in political sociology, international relations, political economy and political geography, and has published more than 12 books. He is an Associate Professor in Social and Political Sciences at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UTS (FASS), where he has been based since 1996. In 2007 he was one of the three co-founders of the Research Centre in Cosmopolitan Civil Societies. And he remains editor of the CCS Journal, now in its ninth year. He has supervised 17 doctoral students, mainly in the area of NGOs and international politics, and coordinates undergraduate subjects, including the SPS subject ‘Politics, Ideologies and Beliefs’. In 2017, with six other academics, he initiated a new Climate Justice Centre in the Faculty.

Lunch: 12.00 – 13.00


What does society want from universities? 
13.00 – 14.30

Jim Stanford

Centre for Future Work
Dr Jim Stanford is Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work, based at the Australia Institute. Jim recently relocated to Sydney, Australia from Toronto, where he is one of Canada’s best-known economic commentators. He served for over 20 years as Economist and Director of Policy with Unifor, Canada’s largest private-sector trade union. He still advises the union, and is also the Harold Innis Industry Professor in Economics at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada (fractional appointment). He is also an Honorary Professor of Political Economy at the Department of Political Economy at the University of Sydney.

Cassandra Goldie

Australian Council of Social Service

Cassandra Goldie has been CEO of the Australian Council of Social Service since July 2010. With public policy expertise in economic and social issues, civil society, social justice and human rights, Cassandra has represented the interests of people who are disadvantaged, and civil society generally, in major national and international processes as well as in grassroots communities. Prior to joining ACOSS, Cassandra has held senior roles in both the NFP and public sectors, including as Director with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Director and Principal Solicitor with the Darwin Community Legal Service and Senior Executive with Legal Aid in Western Australia. She has a PhD from UNSW and LLM from UCL.

Tim Dodd

Higher Education Correspondent at The Australian
Tim has 25 years experience as a journalist covering a wide variety of issues in economics, politics, education and foreign policy, including reporting from the Canberra press gallery and four years based in Jakarta as the AFR’s South East Asia correspondent.

He was formerly Education Editor of The Australian Financial Review and has direct experience in the education industry, working for IDP Education as its External Relations Manager. Tim has a particular interest in the transformation underway in education due to the adoption of digital technology and learning platforms driven by artificial intelligence.

Patricia Forsythe

Sydney Business Chamber
Patricia Forsythe is the Executive Director of the Sydney Business Chamber, a position she has held since September 2006. Patricia represents the Chamber on the City of Sydney Retail Advisory Panel and the Sydney Airport Planning Coordination Forum. In addition to her role at the Sydney Chamber Patricia serves on boards in the Government and NFP sector: Business Events Sydney; Destination NSW; Council of Macquarie University; Port Authority NSW, Cricket NSW and is chair of the NSW International Education Advisory Board for Study NSW. Patricia served as a Member of the NSW Legislative Council from 1991 to 2006. From 1995 to 2005 Patricia served on the Opposition frontbench in a number of shadow portfolios.

Citizens, Professionals and Public Trust
14.30 – 15.30

Margaret Thornton

Australian National University
Professor Margaret Thornton is a socio-legal and feminist scholar whose work on the legal academy and the legal profession is internationally recognised. She is regularly invited to participate in international projects in these areas. Margaret’s scholarship has been acknowledged by election to the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia, the invitation to be a Foundation Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law, inclusion as a ‘Trailblazing Woman in Law’ in the Oral History Project of the Australian National Library (led by Professor Kim Rubenstein), and the award of an ARC Professorial Fellowship. Margaret also has a particular interest in the impact of the corporatisation of universities on the legal academy and has conducted research in the UK, Canada and New Zealand, as well as Australia.

Tamson Pietsch

University of Technology Sydney
Dr Tamson Pietsch is Senior Lecturer in Social & Political Sciences and Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at UTS where she also holds an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship. Tamson’s research focuses on the history of ideas and the global politics of knowledge and empire in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tamson received her DPhil from the University of Oxford, where she studied as a Rhodes Scholar and then held a Junior Research Fellowship at New College and lectureship at Corpus Christi College. Prior to coming to UTS, Tamson was ARC DECRA Fellow at the University of Sydney and Lecturer in Imperial and Colonial History at Brunel University, London.

Afternoon tea: 15.30 – 16.00


Political Agendas for the Public University
16.00 – 17.00

Lachlan Barker

UTS Students’ Association
Lachlan Barker is the current Treasurer of the Students’ Association, and next year’s President. In 2018 he will enter his fourth year of his degree in Social & Political Science and Law. He became involved in student activism in his first year of university and this was a springboard for his engagement in social justice campaigns on- and off-campus.

Throughout 2017, Lachlan has been involved in the Respect. Now. Always. campaign, various university committees to improve support for students who have experienced sexual assault, and campus-based anti-Islamophobia actions.

Larissa Behrendt

Director, Research and Academic Programs, Jumbunna Institute for Indigenous Education & Research, University of Technology Sydney
Professor Larissa Behrendt is a Eualayai/Gamillaroi woman who holds the Chair of Indigenous Research at the Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning at the University of Technology Sydney. She is a graduate of UNSW and Harvard Law School and an award-winning author of fiction and non-fiction. Larissa wrote and directed the documentary After the Apology and the Walkley nominated feature documentary, Innocence Betrayed and has written and produced several short films. She is a board member of the Sydney Festival and a member of the Major Performing Arts Panel of the Australia Council. Larissa was awarded the 2009 NAIDOC Person of the Year award and 2011 NSW Australian of the Year. She is the host of Speaking Out on the ABC Local Radio and Radio National.

Sharon Bell

University of Western Sydney
Professor Sharon Bell is an academic leader with twenty-five years of leadership experience in the Australian higher education sector. She is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor Strategy and Planning at Western Sydney University and an Honorary Professor at the Australian National University. She is also an Emeritus Professor at the University of Wollongong.

Professor Bell holds a PhD from the University of Sydney in the discipline of Anthropology. Over the past decade she has focused her ethnographic gaze on the academy and higher education policy.

Jeannie Rea

National Tertiary Education Union
Jeannie has been involved in education and union activism since her student days. She has been a professional educator and advocate in the postsecondary sector for well over three decades. Starting her career in TAFE and the Technical Teachers Union, she then worked at Victoria University for almost twenty years teaching and researching in gender studies, labour history, environmental science and public advocacy, while also active in the NTEU. She held education leadership roles in governance and management at VU including Deputy Dean, Head of School, and chair of the university education committee, as well as many terms on academic board and committees. Throughout her life, Jeannie has worked for access, equity, high quality and democratic education for all in Australia and internationally. Her recent publishing is largely around higher education policy and politics, labour and unions, feminism and related issues

Closing drinks: 17.00


This venue is wheelchair accessible and is fitted with hearing loops. Please let us know at if you have any additional access, dietary or other requirements that would assist your participation in this event.

If you require more information, please contact us: