How Good are Australian Universities?

Free Public Lecture

How Good are Australian Universities?

Ground Floor Auditorium
Peter Doherty Institute


Grattan Street

Booking not required

R Douglas Wright Lecture 2017

In this lecture, Professor Simon Marginson will examine the evolution of Australian higher education from its colonial roots. He will describe the scale and scope of local higher education; position Australian universities and research science within the worldwide sector; explore their internal life and their relation to government, economy and society; consider the relationship between scholarship and national life; and focus also on the three-way nexus between Australia, Asia and the universities.

In his 1964 bestseller The Lucky Country, Donald Horne argued that a provincial and mediocre culture weakened Australia in the face of challenges such as declining British power, the rise of Asia, technological change and the compelling needs to expand the educated workforce and to use talent more effectively. Universities were derivative and weak. For Horne, Australia was a country lacking a mind, in which ‘intellectual life exists but is still fugitive’.

The generation of RD Wright, namesake of this lecture series, changed that. Australia now has 23 universities in the world top 500, according to the 2017 Shanghai ranking, and educates 200,000 students from Asia. How was that achieved? Has Horne’s challenge been met – has the country been transformed along with the universities? And what, if anything, remains in the universities of the adventurous individualism and improvised creativity, the compelling pursuit of disinterested aims and unselfish goals, that characterised RD Wright’s contribution?

All Free Public Lectures