Universities Australia appoints Luke Sheehy as chief executive

Former political staffer and representative group head to take the helm at umbrella body

December 19, 2023
Luke Sheehy

Former political adviser Luke Sheehy has been named the next chief executive of Australia’s representative body for the nation’s universities, succeeding outgoing boss Catriona Jackson.

Mr Sheehy will take the helm at Universities Australia (UA) for a five-year term from 7 February. He has been executive director of the Australian Technology Network of Universities (ATN) since 2019 and was reappointed to that role just four months ago.

He is a political and education policy veteran who served as parliamentary and international education adviser to Labor tertiary education minister Chris Evans early last decade, and later as higher education, skills and training adviser to then shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek.

Mr Sheehy was assistant director of the Department of Education taskforce that established the higher education regulator, the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency, in 2011. He has served as an education and innovation consultant to the Asian Development Bank in the Philippines, government relations adviser at Swinburne University of Technology and in various roles at the University of Melbourne.

UA said it was “delighted to appoint someone of Luke’s calibre” to lead the organisation through a crucial period. “He knows the sector well and comes with demonstrated skills and a strong track record of working across the political aisle and with industry bodies,” said chair David Lloyd.

Mr Sheehy said 2024 would be a “year of big reform” and, as the first member of his family to graduate from university, he wanted to effect meaningful change. “I know first-hand the power of education to transform lives and I am driven to ensure that opportunity is provided to as many people as possible,” he said.

Mr Sheehy said he would not be “a stranger” to ATN colleagues, with the Universities Accord shaping up as “an exciting crucible” for higher education. “I look forward to continuing that work in parliament with all sides of politics and my peers from across the sector.”

ATN chair Harlene Hayne counted the group’s expansion from four to six member universities as one of Mr Sheehy’s key achievements. “Luke’s strategic and collegiate approach within the sector and [with] governments from both sides of politics will stand him in good stead in his new role.”

UA’s deputy chief Renee Hindmarsh, another former ATN head, will act as chief executive until early February.


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