The role of higher education in the UK and U.S. is to counter “uninformed views on immigration” and fight racism, the next leader of Australia’s universities has said.
Margaret Gardner, who has been elected as the next chair of Universities Australia, said the job of higher education institutions is not only to prepare graduates for new careers, but to promote “diversity” and “openness”, and “tackle rhetoric against immigrants”.
Professor Gardner made the remarks in response to a question on whether the UK’s vote to leave the European Union (EU) and Donald Trump’s election in the U.S. might make Australian universities more attractive to academics and international students.
Vice-chancellor of Monash University in Melbourne, Gardner stressed that universities in the Anglophone nations have a “shared challenge” in facing down opposition to mass immigration.
“All universities across the world, including our colleagues in the US and UK… actually have a role through our social scientists, for example, and others in basically countering uninformed views about immigration and in countering views that are racist or in other ways attempt to encourage xenophobic behaviour. That’s a role we all share,” she told Times Higher Education.
“We have a responsibility to build a diverse student population because with diversity comes cultural understanding and openness and all the things that are fundamental to building knowledge and building the capabilities to work in the world… an increasingly globalised world.”
Asserting that the world is shifting into a “knowledge economy phase”, the professor stated that widening access to university would help people adjust to the “profound changes in communities and in nations” which are being imposed by globalism.
Professor Gardner argued that getting a larger proportion of young people enrolled in higher education could “mitigate effects where people feel they are losing opportunities and losing power and [as a result] perhaps being attracted to a rhetoric against immigrants, which is not going to solve that problem”.
“If you aren’t prepared for the transformation in the economy then you will be a less successful, less prosperous nation,” she added.
However, not everyone would agree with the assessment of Professor Gardner, an economist and specialist in industrial relations.
Respected Australian academic and researcher Frank Salter, known for his extensive research on ‘diversity’, has slammed the “ideological corruption of the humanities and social sciences” on the subject.
“Unrestricted migration would harm Australia’s national interests in ways documented by scholars in economics, sociology and related disciplines. Much of the harm is predictable from what is known about the dysfunctions of diversity.”
Pointing out that increased diversity is associated with “reduced democracy, slowed economic growth, falling social cohesion and foreign aid, as well as rising corruption and risk of civil conflict”, the anthropologist and ethnologist blasted universities for presenting the phenomenon as “an unalloyed benefit”.