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Wednesday, 22 August 1984
Page: 161


Senator PETER BAUME(5.27) —I support the motion moved by Senator Peter Rae and do so from a slightly different viewpoint. The Australian National University is a very special university by virtue of its location, its special mission and the fact that it is the only university in Australia which reports directly to this Parliament, for reasons which are good and proper. We have in the annual report of this University our only chance to look at the functioning of a university over the past year. Therefore now is not an inappropriate stage to say something about the role of universities and the role of the ANU in relation to other Australian universities. It is not, of course, the only university in which we have an interest. Some of us have close links with the Australian Vice-Chancellors Committee and with the campuses of a number of universities in each State, as I know my colleague Senator Peter Rae does. We travel extensively visiting the universities around Australia and have discovered that we have a variety of universities. There is no other university exactly like the ANU, but each of them makes some contribution to Australian life.

If the purpose of universities across the world is three-fold we can test our universities on the extent to which they satisfy those goals. The first goal is to collect the knowledge and wisdom of mankind, the second is to work to extend that knowledge and the third is to help to transmit the culture and knowledge from one generation to the next. The Australian National University is unusual in this country in that it was conceived and established as a research-based university, a postgraduate school, concerned particularly with the first two functions I mentioned and less with the function of transmitting culture. Of course it has changed in recent times. It now has a vigorous undergraduate school as well as its postgraduate activities. However, it is fair to say that when people look to the ANU or think about the ANU it is its postgraduate work and its postgraduate responses that people are most concerned about.

I like to think of the ANU in terms of its achievements and the many things it has contributed to Australian life. I like to think of it as a jewel in a mosaic which is Australian university life. While I would want to see this University prosper and continue to receive the support it receives from Government, I would like to do that against the pattern of other universities which take a more prominent role in the teaching and transmission function as well as in their research and scholarly functions. I think the crisis, if there is one facing universities today, is the crisis of working to maintain excellence in all that they do. The pursuit of excellence in university life is something that most Australians want to see maintained. I agree with what Senator Peter Rae had to say when he was drawing attention to some of the areas of excellence within the university of which he is a member of council, but I would like to see across Australian academic life an emphasis on excellence that is unremitting and continuous.

One of the other factors which we look to in universities today is the maintenance of integrity in all that they do. That applies particularly in terms of the teaching function. In turn that implies integrity in the way in which the universities deal with students. An incident was raised in an Estimates committee, which was confirmed by one of the tertiary institutions recently, where students had cause to complain on one campus last year-its name does not matter; I will not identify the campus-that factors other than academic merit were being taken into account in the assessments being made of students. That is just one aspect of integrity to which we would like to see universities, colleges and technical colleges address themselves as being of particular importance.

I suppose that the third thing we want to see is the maintenance of the most vigorous approach to all that they do as a continuing feature of Australian universities. We can all be proud of our university sector and the Australian National University. I have much pleasure in complimenting the university on the report which has come down.

Question resolved in the affirmative.