2018 Monash Global Leaders’ Summit

Dinner Address by the President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO
Tuesday 4 September
White Lane, 31 Flinders Lane, Melbourne

I wish to acknowledge the people of the Kulin Nations, on whose lands we are gathered today. I pay my respects to their Elders, past and present.

Good evening and welcome.

How extraordinary it is to be in the midst of so many people who share a deep interest in, and affiliation with Monash University – and who have demonstrated this through the energy and expertise they have shared with us today.

This connection is profound, because for all of you, it is steeped in memories of an important part of your personal journey.

For some of you, those memories are recent, for others, more distant.

But you are here at the Global Leaders’ Summit because you are alumni and leaders.

As alumni, you are for Monash akin to friendly family – you have seen our best and our worst; you’ve stuck with us; you rejoice in our successes and are willing to point out weaknesses that need work.

As leaders, you can analyse present and future opportunities and challenges; make judgements about what should bring success; and what is worth major effort or betting the house.

You bring to Monash the experience and expertise and the connections that help fuel and realise aspiration.  You are vital to our ambition to be international and enterprising.

As alumni you bring the connection and values that ensure we keep our commitment to be excellent and inclusive.  We need to meet your expectations - the promise of what is to come – the impact we can make.

The four key themes of our Summit this year (Define it. Build it. Disrupt it. Change it.) are pertinent markers to explore the significance of Monash University’s past, present and future.

The first theme: “Define it.”

This year marks the 60th anniversary of the Monash University Act 1958.

Looking back, with just a hint of nostalgia and pride, we can surmise that 1958 was the logical – perhaps inevitable – moment in Victoria’s history that a brave new university would be formed.

Australia was moving rapidly beyond the shadow of post-war shock and austerity, and there was an increasingly desperate need for additional facilities to train young workers, especially in applied science and industrial management.

When Monash was founded, the manufacturing sector accounted for more than a quarter of all Australian jobs.

This was in the global context of a burgeoning economic boom.

World War II had brought about a levelling of social classes. The overall worldwide trend was one of prosperity, expansion of the middle class, and the proliferation of new industrial and domestic technology.

The Monash Act clearly gave priority to the sciences and technologies, but quickly added Law, Medicine and Business. The quality of education itself was of utmost importance and it was seen through State and nation-building eyes.

Today, education is Australia’s largest services export, generating over $9 billion for Victoria last year, and supporting almost 58,000 jobs.

Monash University contributed more than a quarter of this amount (over $2 billion).

A recent report by London Economics demonstrates with data what those of us in the sector have long known, Universities have greater economic impact in the economy, in a knowledge economy, now.

The report reveals that every employee within the Group of 8 creates an estimated 2.4 jobs in the wider community.

Improved quality of employees’ skills after they have completed their degrees, as well as the substantial productivity ‘spillovers’ from research have been complemented by the ‘soft’ impact of all those educated here, now elsewhere in the world.

An event like the Global Leaders’ Summit, indeed the Global Leaders’ Network itself, are such important demonstrators of and contributors to this.

Monash University is enjoying a period of unprecedented success, which is reflected in our international standing.

Monash consistently ranks in the Top 100 world universities on a range of measures.

  • # 1 in Australia on Reuters Top 75: Asia’s most innovative universities – for the second year in a row
  • # 21 World’s Most International Universities
  • # 56 on National Taiwan University (NTU) rankings, which rates the performance of scientific papers, and
  • # 68 in the US News and World Report.

It is our desire to maintain this level of success, and to continue increasing the impact of our work.  What was founded in nation building now has broader reach and potential impact.

The second theme: “Build it.”

Some of you were Monash students earlier than others. At such a rapid rate of change, I wonder what your reactions were upon seeing the campus grounds again. I look forward to speaking with you about these impressions as the evening unfolds.

You might have wondered how much of your Monash you would recognise.

The past decade has seen the most significant transformation in recent University history of the campus’ infrastructure.

Award-winning developments such as the Learning and Teaching Building and the Matheson Library; and the redevelopment of the Alexander Theatre.

We are committed to continuing this transformation and renewal, creating campus environments that are welcoming, vibrant and most importantly, primed for our future needs.

We are transforming where and how our students learn, migrating away from the computer laboratories you may recall from your own days at Monash, to collaborative spaces that better reflect the environment they are preparing to enter.

We are enhancing opportunities for students to spend more time in those learning environments where we know the best learning has always taken place: through engagement with each other.

But to this the digital interface opens a future for learning experiences that can be renewed after our students leave their first degree – we are on the cusp of a different type of engagement with learners.

While the University may have changed physically since many of you were students, the spirit and enterprise that defined Monash six decades ago holds true.

The third and fourth themes: “Disrupt it. Change it.”

We would not be Monash University if we did not embrace change, and also try to effect change.

Monash is currently working on innovations that may prove to be defining moments in our lifetimes.

Only last week, I was presenting at the event announcing an additional $50 million funding for the World Mosquito Program; and it occurred to me that it was one of those moments. A turning point, where we may look back in years to come and say:

In my lifetime, this happened. These tropical diseases, like dengue and Zika, which were once so common, part of such a complex, global problem, will be able to be halted.

It also offers its own students wonderful international opportunities that further their studies and careers.

The New Colombo Plan offers up to 940 Monash students experiences in Cambodia, China, India and Malaysia, between 2019 and 2022.

The Global Executive MBA program provides our best and brightest students with access to the leading professionals in business and academia.

And our ‘Generator’ programs – our entrepreneurship hubs – empower students to launch their ideas to market through seed funding and intensive mentorship.

Only last week, Monash won three awards at the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit.

One of which was for our ‘Access Monash Mentoring Cycle’ program. This matches school students in years 11 and 12 from communities with low levels of higher education completion with students studying at the university.

This dedication to inclusivity and opportunity is at the heart of the Monash vision, and we look forward to these students joining our alumni network.

There is no doubt Monash has transformed since many of you were students – and it continues to change.

But this is the necessity of the age – adapting to change, thriving in an environment of flux and uncertainty.

Converting possibilities into meaningful progress, for the benefit of local and international communities.

We are delighted that you are part of this journey, and are willing to continue on this journey with us.  We celebrate you bringing your minds as leaders to us, but most importantly, as our alumni, your hearts.

Thank you – very much.