Two's company as research powers sign pact

March 4, 2005

Two of Australia's biggest research-intensive universities and former rivals have signed a partnership agreement to attract more researchers and overseas students.

The Australian National University in Canberra and the University of Sydney said the plans would have a major impact on Australian higher education.

ANU vice-chancellor Ian Chubb and his Sydney counterpart Gavin Brown said the alliance would propel their institutions to the forefront of international recruitment.

The agreement follows 12 months of negotiation and it includes establishing cooperative research programmes, joint bidding for new centres and resources, and joint honours undergraduate and graduate coursework degrees.

Both universities will take part in an "international recruiting tour" this year to jointly promote international marketing, recruitment and study-abroad schemes. As well as sharing some facilities and major infrastructure for research, teaching and outreach programmes, the universities will adopt joint benchmarking.

The two vice-chancellors believe that the new partnership will also encourage eminent international researchers to visit the research laboratories on both campuses.

"We want to enhance the objectives and research strengths of both universities," Professor Brown said. "We want to be judged by international standards and develop a real competitiveness in the areas of Australia's national research priorities."

Professor Chubb said the agreement would enable senior staff from each institution to work full time for a period in the other institution and to organise collaborative programmes without losing status or rights.

Professor Brown said he would encourage his academics to take their sabbaticals at the ANU, saying most travel overseas was down to habit.

Moreover, that option was "damn costly", he said.

"Having a kind of refresher exercise by transfer might be very attractive.

I'd be entirely happy for academics here to go to the ANU and, conversely, for their academics to try the brazen hussy that is Sydney."

Students at the two universities may eventually be able to undertake some units at the other university and obtain credit towards their degrees.

But Professor Brown said the agreement, while encouraging a preferred partnership in areas of complementarity, did not rule out other partners in joint projects and would not prevent bilateral ventures with other institutions.

"I would trust that more universities would be keen to join us in the international marketing exercise," he said.

The move comes as IDP Australia, the universities' international marketing arm, is struggling to relocate itself in a rapidly changing environment.

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