Chasing the Norm

Australian academic and blogger on politics, international relations, and culture

There are other Universities Mr Rudd!

4 September 2009

Dear the Hon. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd

In recent days you have proposed two very good new initiatives aimed at improving the education and skills of the federal public service. These are the National Security College and a new Policy and Public Sector Management school, with both to be placed at the Australian National University.

There is however one problem. Both of these institutions already exist, and can be found at the University of Canberra (UC). In October 2008 UC set up the National Security Institute with Professor Peter Leahy, former Chief of the Australian Army as its head. And since the early 1980’s, UC has been running the Center for Research in Public Sector Management, and the National Institute of Governance, both of which have now been amalgamated into the ANZOG Institute for Governance . Whilst ANU has its rightful world class reputation for research, the University of Canberra has been carefully carving out a niche serving the public service, providing the latest in research and training facilities.

After the many years of distrust and dismissal of the value of the Higher Education sector by your predecessors, it is fantastic to see a government committed to taking the best new research, insights and training available and applying them to support and enhance the work of the public service. However, as fond as you may be of your alma mata, and as prestigious as the ANU is (and rightly so), there are 37 other universities in this country who are very keen to get involved in this welcome re-engagement. At the University of Canberra (where I have been both an undergraduate and postgraduate student and lecturer) the University has put extensive efforts into a world class research and training body in Public Policy and Public Sector Management. The decision to house the ANZOG institute for Governance at UC in early 2009 was in part a validation of the over 20 year history of high quality work in this sector that had been carried out at the University of Canberra.

So please Mr Rudd, rather than burden ANU to find new buildings and staff, an effort that may take years just to get started, have a look just 5 km away over the hill, past Black Mountain to the University of Canberra where there are already institutions in place with long standing links to serve your vision. Whilst the ANU is rightly one of the worlds finest universities, Australia should seek to expand its research and training excellence across a range of Universities (particularly in a hub such as Canberra) to build an overall reputation for the strength and quality of our institutioins. Just as in the United States where Ivy League schools seek to differentiate their key skills and focuses, building up the University of Canberra with its pre-existing specialisation in National Security and Public Sector Management and Policy can only benefit the country, our international reputation, and the ability of the higher education sector to serve and meet the needs of the federal government and the public service.

Yours Sincerely

Andrew Carr