One of Australia’s higher education lobby groups has lost its northern bulwark after Queensland University of Technology (QUT) decided to secede from the Australian Technology Network (ATN).
Vice-chancellor Margaret Sheil said that QUT’s strategic direction had “evolved significantly” since it joined the ATN, “and today we find ourselves on a trajectory we feel best able to pursue in our own right”.
She said: “While we still have much in common with the other members of the ATN and will continue to work closely with them, QUT also has a range of joint projects with other higher education institutions both in Australia and overseas. We feel it is best to pursue these collaborations independent of a subgrouping affiliation.”
QUT would continue to work “fruitfully” with the ATN and other institutions through the umbrella group Universities Australia, she added.
The news broke on Friday afternoon, a period known in Australian media circles as “taking out the trash time”. The ATN tweeted a brief statement in which chair Martin Bean thanked QUT for its “many contributions” and noted that academic collaborations would “undoubtedly continue”.
The development reflects a tradition of shifting alliances in the complicated patchwork of Australian university representative bodies. Macquarie University decamped from the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) group in 2008, followed by the University of Newcastle in 2014, while Western Sydney University signed on to the IRU last year.
QUT’s move leaves the ATN the smallest subgroup by far, with just four member universities. This compares with Regional Universities Network’s six, the IRU’s seven and the elite Group of Eight, while 14 universities are now unaligned.
QUT’s departure also robs the ATN of one of its most highly ranked institutions. Unlike the other subgroups, the ATN has steered clear of public activism, preferring to lobby in private.