A strategic future for Australian higher education

What’s the future of higher education in Australia, and how will TERN help improve its quality and cost-effectiveness? We spoke to two of TERN’s biggest university partners – The University of Adelaide and The University of Queensland – about how our collaborative research and data infrastructure underpins their strategic plans for the future.

In a recent series of articles run by The Conversation numerous commentators discussed how the internet, changes in communications technologies and the rise of free online courses are transforming the higher education sector.

The University of Adelaide has taken a strategic approach to this transformation by deliberately moving towards the ideal of the research university, says Professor Bob Hill, the Executive Dean of the Faculty of Sciences there.

‘A true research university is one in which all students have the opportunity to participate in the excitement of the search for new knowledge,’ Bob says.

Of course, there will be challenges associated with this transformation.

‘For example, our researchers are likely to face ever-increasing equipment costs in the context of ever-greater competition for research funds, and an ever-growing volume and complexity of research data. One way that we as a university can work towards ensuring our researchers and students have access to the top-quality infrastructure they need to succeed is by supporting national collaborative research infrastructure capabilities such as TERN,’ Bob says.

The University of Adelaide was a founding partner of TERN in 2007, and three of TERN’s 11 national facilities – Eco-informatics, AusPlots and the Australian Transect Network – are headquartered at the University’s historic North Terrace campus.

‘Our university has definitely benefited from hosting this national infrastructure. Having a core of professional staff that can interact with our academics and students provides a host of new research and mentoring opportunities,’ Bob says.

‘In addition, the research infrastructure necessary to address today’s big issues in environmental science – like food security, the preservation of biodiversity, and clean water – is hugely costly.

‘No university or institution can work effectively alone. So by partnering in national and global collaborative efforts we simultaneously ensure our researchers and students are well positioned to access the best infrastructure available.’


University of Adelaide campus


Another of the higher education organisations that has been a strong supporter of TERN from its inception is The University of Queensland.

Professor Ian Gentle, Associate Dean (Research) of the Faculty of Science, says: ‘Enhancing and sustaining the university’s research infrastructure capability, especially in our existing and emerging areas of research strength, is a key strategy for us going forward.’

UQ was recently ranked as Australia’s top-performing university for the environmental sciences – and ninth in the world. It is clearly playing to its strengths by acting as the host for TERN’s national headquarters.

‘We’re the leading university for ecosystem sciences research and education in the country, and the delivery of TERN’s nationally collaborative infrastructure is one of the most important developments in ecosystem sciences for decades,’ Ian says.

‘Supporting TERN is strategic for us as a higher education institution because it positions our students and researchers well to take advantage of new opportunities, maintaining our lead in these fields.’


University of Queensland campus



Published in TERN newsletter November 2013

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