This morning, I was on Radio National to talk about one of the messages that I think has been lost in all this recent debate about universities.
Australia has the privilege of having a number of universities ranked in the top 100 in the world who on behalf of our country, are educating the future leaders of our region and the world, and that’s a real success story.
There’s no doubt that there are newsworthy things happening across the globe and there are students who may be personally impacted or have strong opinions about what is going on. These feelings can be exacerbated on a genuinely diverse campus like ours.
I want to thank all of you for the way you have conducted yourselves so far. Our fundamental commitment to freedom of speech and freedom of political association means that we must respect the fact that other people may have different points of view. Indeed, universities must be places where we can have those kinds of hard but respectful conversations – where misunderstandings are corrected, and assumptions challenged.
Students from our campus come from 140 countries and 40 per cent of our domestic undergraduate students come from homes where English is not the first language spoken at home. We are a place where ideas genuinely mix.
This diversity is important because when you graduate you need to be ready to operate in an environment where not just England and the United States are important trade partners but people from all over the world. In the future having cultural competence is going to be a critical skill.
Our classrooms are places where we are preparing you for a career in Shanghai, London or Sydney and we are putting a lot of work into teaching for diversity to encourage more and better participation.
In the last few weeks I have seen examples of cross-cultural understanding and support that have made me very proud of our university.
We must continue to be a place where Australia meets the world and the world meets Australia.
Dr Michael Spence AO
Vice-Chancellor and Principal
The University of Sydney fosters an inclusive campus environment where everyone has the right to feel safe and supported. Counselling and mental health support is available for any students who are experiencing distress or concern. You can reach Student Counselling Services by calling +61 2 8627 8433.