Victoria University of Technology in Melbourne has struck a unique agreement with Dublin Trinity College in Ireland to enable postgraduate student exchanges between the two institutions, writes Geoff Maslen.
VUT vice chancellor Jarlath Ronayne and Trinity provost Thomas Mitchell signed the agreement in Melbourne earlier this month.
The agreement links one of Australia's newest universities with one of Europe's oldest. Trinity College was established in 1591, VUT 400 years later.
Professor Ronayne said the agreement was the first of its kind between any Australian university and Trinity. The exchange would encourage research on the historical, political, economic, social and scientific relationship between Ireland and Australia.
A centre for Irish-Australian studies would be established at VUT to support scholars during their time in Australia, he said. Two Dublin PhD students will spend a year at VUT while two of Australian PhD students attend Trinity College.
Both universities would provide credit for time spent by students at their respective institutions and would waive tuition fees. VUT would also offer financial aid to scholars selected to go to Dublin.
Professor Mitchell, in an address at the university, said that now was the best of times for the world's universities: never before had there been a greater demand for their services or the opportunity to play a more vital and direct role in the development of their societies.
But the boom in demand had not been matched by a corresponding increase in state investment. Recurring recessions had resulted in frequent cutbacks in government grants.
Mass education had brought with it a preoccupation with throughput but little real concern for quality.
Referring to the need for university autonomy and the growing intrusiveness of governments, Professor Mitchell said: "This is a threat that should send us all to the barricades. There are limits of interference that cannot be tolerated and they must be clearly defined . . . universities must stand as centres of independent thought, communities of scholars that are free without fear or hindrance to pursue truth.''