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ECU Vice-Chancellor promotes engagement at Davos Summit

Friday, 16 May 2008


The impact of universities can be increased for the benefit of Australia and the wider world provided universities become better engaged with those communities they were established to serve, Edith Cowan University's (ECU) Vice-Chancellor, Professor Kerry Cox told the Australian Davos Connection Future Summit in Sydney on Monday, 12 May.

Professor Cox attended the conference to provide input and expertise into how higher education can help shape Australia's future.

"Many industries, businesses, not-for-profit groups, government agencies and others within the community have much to contribute to the research and to the education and research training of the future leaders by working with their universities to solve problems that will increase inclusivity, prosperity and sustainability" Professor Cox told Summit delegates.

Speaking the next morning after the opening keynote presentation by the Prime Minister of Australia, the Hon. Kevin Rudd MP, Professor Cox provided the Summit delegates with examples where there is a pressing need to apply the skills and understanding of university academics to help resolve long-term, serious, solvable problems within the community.

Examples Professor Cox provided from Australia included environmental and renewable energy issues, childhood obesity, indigenous morbidity and mortality and prejudice based on gender.

Of particular poignancy, according to Professor Cox, is the fact that in Boston, Massachusetts, there is a very rich concentration of academic expertise with many iconic world class universities and yet the Charles River flowing through Boston has been unfit for humans to enter for some 50 years.

"With some of the best minds in the world in Boston and huge sums of monies held in reserve by some universities, how could it be that the issue of fresh water in the river was steadfastly ignored for so long?" Professor Cox asked.

Professor Cox went on to explain how teaching and research at ECU are inspired by engagement and partnerships.

"Professor Cobie Rudd and her team are running world-class simulation and scenario-based learning opportunities for the education and training of nurses, where ECU students from the WA Academy of Performing Arts act out real-life scenarios in simulated emergency wards drawing on the kind of clinical presentations that emerge everyday throughout Australia."

"In our Health and Wellness program led by Professor Rob Newton some 1,200 people from the community come to the University and, under expert guidance of the academic staff and students, apply knowledge of exercise science, nutrition and psychology to recover from serious illness, heart attacks and to reduce obesity."

"Professor Kamal Alameh and his team who are pioneering world-class MicroPhotonics work have developed a new machine using lasers to localise the application of herbicides, thereby significantly reducing levels of herbicide use on farms, improving food quality and leading to greater profitability for farmers and lower water usage."

"In addition, Associate Professor Lynne Cohen's psychology students undertake some of their learning at local primary schools working with youngsters disaffected with school, with amazing results" Professor Cox said.

Professor Cox indicated that these few examples are part of a greater number of helpful connections between staff and students at ECU and the communities they serve.

"Universities should work 'with' and 'for' their communities," Professor Cox said, "not 'on' them, and that is what underpins the commitment to engagement and partnerships at ECU."

The Australian Davos Connection Future Summit brings together Australia's leading thinkers to provide an opportunity to help shape Australia by generating discussion and debate around 'big ideas'.

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