The Idea of the University - Crisis or Adaptation?

Date & time
6–7.30pm Tuesday 17 March 2020

National Library of Australia
Parkes Place, Canberra ACT 2600

Anne Kelly
+61 2 6215 0454
60th Anniversary Celebrations
The Idea of the University
  • UPDATEThe Australian National University has decided to cancel public events and social gatherings to minimise the risk of the transmission of COVID-19 among our community and more widely. As a precautionary measure and based upon the advice from our expert panel, we will cancel all public and social events from Monday 16 March until the end of semester one, Saturday 20 June. This is a precautionary measure that we know will be disappointing for many, but our aim is to reduce opportunities for the virus to spread by limiting activity on campus without disrupting our essential teaching and research activities. Cancellation and postponement will extend to all discretionary events including ticketed and non-ticketed public events, public lectures and concerts. More information about event cancellations can be found here.

Disruption is all around us. We are experiencing profound upheaval that is transforming our economies, our societies and our values. For centuries, universities have advanced change in the public interest. Can they remain relevant in an era of fake news, anti-politics, and rising contempt for real expertise?

What are the challenges facing students, academics, and the higher education sector today? What will the university of the future look like? Should engaging and inspiring the wider community be core business for universities?

This event explores the role and responsibilities of universities in these urgent times. It matters not just to scholars, administrators and students – but to everyone concerned about adaptation and change in the 21st century.

The event will be a moderated conversation between leading Australian thinkers across sectors and disciplines and will anchor refreshed internal dialogue at ANU during the year in which its world-leading law school turns 60.

An initiative of the ANU College of Law and the ANU Centre for Law, Arts & the Humanities, the dialogue will be curated and facilitated by Natasha Cica of The event will be recorded for broadcast on ABC RN’s Big Ideas, and will be followed by book signings with the speakers.


The Idea of the University: Crisis or Adaptation?


  • Brian Schmidt »


    Professor Brian Schmidt AC FAA FRS is the 12th Vice-Chancellor of The Australian National University (ANU). Winner of the 2011 Nobel Prize in Physics, Professor Schmidt was an astrophysicist at the ANU Mount Stromlo Observatory and Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics before becoming Vice-Chancellor.

    Professor Schmidt received undergraduate degrees in Astronomy and Physics from the University of Arizona in 1989, and completed his Astronomy Master's degree (1992) and PhD (1993) from Harvard University. Under his leadership, in 1998, the High-Z Supernova Search team made the startling discovery that the expansion rate of the Universe is accelerating. Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, The United States Academy of Science, and the Royal Society, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2013.

  • George Megalogenis »


    George Megalogenis is an author and journalist with three decades' experience in the media. The Australian Moment won the 2013 Prime Minister's Literary Award for Non-fiction and the 2012 Walkley Award for Non-fiction, and formed the basis for his ABC documentary series Making Australia Great. George is also the author of Faultlines, The Longest Decade, Australia’s Second Chance, and Balancing Act, which contains his two Quarterly Essays, No. 40: Trivial Pursuit – Leadership and the End of the Reform Era and No. 61: Balancing Act – Australia Between Recession and Renewal. His latest book is The Football Solution.

  • Tamson Pietsch »


    Tamson Pietsch is Associate Professor in Social & Political Sciences and Director of the Australian Centre for Public History at the University of Technology Sydney. She is also the author of the Cap and Gown blog and host of the History Lab podcast.

    Tamson's research focuses on the history of ideas and the global politics of knowledge in the 19th and 20th centuries. Tamson is the author of Empire of Scholars: universities networks and the British academic world, 1850-1939 (Manchester, 2013) and the co-editor of The Transnational Politics of Higher Education (Routledge, 2016). She is currently writing a book about the 1926 world-cruise of the "Floating University" as well as leading an ARC project on expertise in interwar Australia.

    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.

  • Rebecca Huntley »


    Dr Rebecca Huntley is one of Australians foremost researchers on social trends. She has a background in publishing, academia and politics, and holds degrees in law and film studies and a PhD in Gender Studies. For nearly 9 years Rebecca was the Director of The Mind & Mood Report, Australia's longest running social trends report. She is the author of numerous books including Still Lucky: why you should feel optimistic about Australia and its people (Penguin 2017) and Australia Fair: Listen to the Nation, the first Quarterly Essay for 2019. Her next book will be published in 2019 by Murdoch Books on climate change and emotion. She is the head of Vox Populi Research, writes and broadcasts for the ABC and is on the board of The Bell Shakespeare Company and The Whitlam Institute.

  • Des Manderson »


    Professor Des Manderson is an international leader in interdisciplinary scholarship in law and the humanities. He is the author of several books including From Mr Sin to Mr Big (1993); Songs Without Music: Aesthetic dimensions of law and justice (2000); Proximity, Levinas, and the Soul of Law (2006); and Kangaroo Courts and the Rule of Law—The legacy of modernism (2012). His work has led to essays, books, and lectures around the world in the fields of English literature, philosophy, ethics, history, cultural studies, music, human geography, and anthropology, as well as in law and legal theory. Throughout this work Manderson has articulated a vision in which law's connection to these humanist disciplines is critical to its functioning, its justice, and its social relevance. After ten years at McGill University in Montreal, where he held the Canada Research Chair in Law and Discourse, and was founding Director of the Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas, he returned to Australia to take up a Future Fellowship in the colleges of law and the humanities at ANU. 

  • Natasha Cica (facilitator) »


    Dr Natasha Cica is the founding director of change consultancy She is a former CEO of Heide Museum of Modern Art and established the Inglis Clark Centre at the University of Tasmania.  Natasha was an Inaugural Sidney Myer Creative Fellow and has been recognised by the Australian Financial Review as one of Australia’s 100 Women of Influence. Natasha’s publications include Pedder Dreaming (UQP, 2011), and she was co-editor Griffith Review 39: Tasmania – The Tipping Point (Text, 2013).   She is an honorary professor at the ANU College of Law at the Australian National University. 

Additional Materials



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