In the framework of the meeting held between the Council of Rectors of Chilean Universities and the Australian “Go8”, the group that brings together the main universities of that country, Michael Spence commented with Chilean academics about the similarities between Chile and Australia that allow us to elaborate a joint work plan between its main higher education institutions, aimed at making the most of the economic opportunities offered by the Asia-Pacific area.
The sociocultural challenges imposed by a strong presence of the mining industry, the need to promote agricultural development, the population distributed between densely populated urban areas and large regions, and demands for social inclusion are some of the challenges shared by higher education in Australia and Chile, according to Michael Spence, rector of the University of Sydney. The academic led a delegation of academics from the Australian “Go8” that participated in a meeting with representatives of the CRUCH to outline a joint work strategy.
The meeting was held in Santiago, in the premises of the Pontifical Catholic University, and on the occasion the Australian delegation, with representatives of the universities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney -including its Kolling medical research institute-, New South Wales, Queensland and Monash, who were able to learn details of the Chilean higher education system and its challenges thanks to a complete presentation by the rector of the Austral University of Chile, Víctor Cubillos. Then, Vice Chancellor Spence gave his vision on the challenges that both educational systems share, elaborating on some details of the Australian experience.
“In the Australian Go8 we have more than 6 universities with more than 50,000 students. In them, students build their own study programs. We do research intensively and the 20-25% of our students comes from outside the country, ”explained Spence. Regarding financing, mainly undergraduate students have a government contribution, and the difference is paid by the student directly or through an interest-free state credit, which begins to be charged when the beneficiary reaches a certain income level.
However, despite these differences with the Chilean system, Spence emphasized the common challenges to the university system of both countries: “We have similar challenges about what to do with mining and agriculture, about innovation, about the inclusion of students. indigenous peoples and on how to ensure that the students who graduate from our institutions have the necessary skills to function in today's world ”.
Finally, Spence rescued Australia's experience and its long-standing alliance with the Chinese educational system: “We have been deeply committed to China for 40 years, developing common study programs, resulting in professionals with a particular 'flavor'. Starting to work with Chile is exciting, as we need to figure out how we can take advantage of the economic opportunities presented by the Asia-Pacific area ”.