Keynote speakers

Ms Linda Brown

President and CEO, Torrens University Australia

Globally, critical discussions are taking place about the role, value and relevance of tertiary education. COVID-19 has no doubt amplified the urgency. Yet, before the pandemic serious questions about access, collaboration, research, the changing world of work and the Fourth Industrial Revolution were already firing conversations. But new institutions like the privately-owned Torrens University have not waited for the dust to settle.

Torrens University set out to disrupt the traditional model of tertiary education from inception. It was fueled by the unstoppable belief of its CEO, President and EY Entrepreneur of the Year Linda Brown, that tertiary education is a fundamental human right, accessible to all, and a powerful force in advancing economic mobility of individuals as well as serving society and industry.

Today, Torrens University, privately owned by the United States based NASDAQ listed Strategic Education Inc., is Australia’s fastest growing university. It is recognized nationally and globally for its entrepreneurship, uncompromising collaborations with industry and role of pracademics in curriculum co-design, strong graduate outcomes and student satisfaction, world leading research in areas including artificial intelligence, and its overarching commitment to social and environmental impact as a certified B Corporation.

Linda Brown believes the dynamic challenges of global skills shortages, the fast-paced information age and industry dissatisfaction with graduate attributes demand a rethink of the entire tertiary system – from funding models to intra-sectoral collaboration with business and industry. This includes breaking down walls between VET and higher education, holding universities accountable for delivering public good and refocusing education policy on lifelong learning.

At Torrens University, some of this work is well underway.

Linda Brown is a distinguished leader within education and was named the EY Australia
Entrepreneur of the Year 2021 in recognition of her entrepreneurial approach and focus on a
connected global movement of industry, learners and changemakers. With a firm belief that
education is a fundamental human right, she always challenges the status quo to ensure all students
have access to education that fits their needs and prioritizes employability.

In 2014, Linda helped found Torrens University Australia, which at that time was the first new
university in Australia in 20 years. As President and CEO of Australia’s only private for-profit
university and only university to be a Certified B Corporation, she has overseen substantial growth,
consistently high student retention levels and a focus on return-on-investment for students and the
employers that employ those students. Under her guidance, Torrens University is now Australia’s
fastest-growing university, home to over 20,000 students from 115 different countries. Linda’s role
as CEO extends far beyond Australia and New Zealand, leading SEI’s work towards creating a global
university. She also currently oversees Think Education in Australia and the Media Design School in
New Zealand.

Linda frequently represents Torrens University internationally – presenting at summits, advocating
for female diversity and inclusion, and working with affiliated partners to strengthen institutional
and global relations. Linda has represented Australia for six years at APEC Women Leaders’
Conference in Asia Pacific and was identified by Management Today as one of “25 Australian
women to watch”.

Prior to joining Torrens University, Linda was Deputy Vice Chancellor and Director of TAFE at
Swinburne University, Melbourne where she was responsible for maximising the dual sector
advantage, driving the sustainability and social inclusion strategies, and managing the TAFE
Division. Her global business and educational experience include Corporate CEO, Futures
Stockbroker, Managing Director and Director of Stoke-on-Trent FE College. She was also part of the
UK Government’s rapid response team for the Further Education Funding Council and was part of
a UK think tank on education as a global business.

Ms Angela Barney-Lietch

Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Indigenous Australians), Queensland University of Technology, Australia

If we are to judge policies by their outcomes and not their intentions, then there has been policy failure in universities for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Is this failure due to ineffective policies, implementation failure or contextual changes? Perhaps it is due to something more intrinsic to society such as a lack of understanding of systemic and structural discrimination and need for transformational change rather than focusing on select policies and programs. This keynote will discuss the need for universities to enact changes that are organisationally wide and implemented over a planned period to create significant cultural change for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

Ms Barney-Leitch is a Woppaburra woman with over 30 years of experience working in and with State and Federal Governments, the tertiary sector, and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community-based organisations. For over 20 years she worked within and led Queensland government policy and strategy units. Prior to joining QUT in 2019, Ms Barney-Leitch was the Director of Indigenous Policy and Strategic Innovation for the Queensland Department of Education. Ms Barney-Leitch is also a Land Trustee and Native Title Holder for the Woppaburra Nation. At QUT she has successfully refocused Indigenous Australian priorities, plans and spaces to align with Indigenous sovereignty and voice, as well as QUT’s overall strategic planning to incorporate the needs and visibility of Indigenous Australians.

Dr Mollie Dollinger

Deakin University, Australia

If it feels like the higher education sector lurches from one crisis to the next, imagine what it must be like for our students. Global forces of COVID and artificial intelligence, to environmental disasters, and localised policy shifts such as the Australian Job Ready Graduates Package, send often disjointed and contradictory signals to students about the purpose and value of a university degree. It is now pertinent for us as a sector, leaders, policymakers, teachers, and staff, to recommit ourselves to the importance of evidence-informed approaches to understanding an increasingly complex, and diversified, student experience. In this keynote, she will discuss the need for an integrated approach to learning about students’ behaviours, preferences, and experiences. Drawing on research from learning analytics and Students as Partners (SaP), she will critique how we ‘capture’ student voices and challenge how we might conceptualise the student experience moving forward.

Dr Mollie Dollinger is an early-career higher education researcher and educator with a focus to improve equity and inclusion in our classrooms, campuses, and systems. Central to her approach is a commitment to participatory design methodology, including Students as Partners (SaP) and co-design methods which recognise and embed the lived experiences of participants to generate new ideas and solutions. She has previously led the creation of two university-wide SaP programs and has applied her passion for inclusion and co-design towards research on a range of higher education topics, including learning analytics, student governance, and graduate employability.

Mollie is currently a Senior Lecturer with the Learning Futures team at Deakin University. She previously completed her PhD with the Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE) at The University of Melbourne in December 2018, and has previously held an academic position at La Trobe University. With colleagues, Mollie has been awarded over $700,000 AUD in competitive research funding, including as the Chief Investigator of a National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education (NCSEHE) grant exploring regional and rural student pathways into higher education. More recently, Mollie has been part of a team led by Professor Sarah O’Shea (Curtin University) and funded by the National Careers Institute (NCI) to establish a National Career Disability Learning Hub for Students with Disabilities. Mollie is a member of the Deakin’s School of Education Research for Educational Impact (REDI) and Deakin’s Centre for Research in Assessment and Digital Learning (CRADLE).

Mollie’s latest publications are available through GoogleScholar and follow her on Twitter at @molliedollin

Prof Mary O'Kane AC

Chair, Australian Universities Accord Panel

As chair of the Australian Universities Accord taskforce appointed by Minister Clare in 2022, Professor Mary O’Kane is leading one of the most significant reviews of Australian higher education ever undertaken. With her panel she is tasked with reporting on the long-term future of the sector by the end of this year.  The Accord aims to drive lasting and transformative reform and is an opportunity to build a visionary plan for Australia’s universities and higher education sector.

This panel brings Mary O’Kane (via video) into dialogue with Professor Martin Betts, former DVC Engagement (Griffith) and founder of the highly influential content and advisory service HEDx; and Professor Hilary Winchester AM,  (Vice-President Governance and University Secretary, Charles Darwin University) to discuss the Accord and its potential to reshape Australian higher education.

Mary will be presenting via live-stream. 

Mary O’Kane is Chair of the NSW Independent Planning Commission, a company director, and Executive Chairman of O’Kane Associates, a Sydney-based consulting practice specialising in government reviews. She was NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer from 2008-2018; Vice-Chancellor of the University of Adelaide from 1996-2001; Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Adelaide from 1994-1996; and Dean of the Faculty of Information Sciences & Engineering at the University of Canberra from 1990-94.

Mary has served on several boards and committees in the public and private sectors, especially related to innovation, education, energy, engineering, health, Antarctica, ICT and research. She is currently Chair of the boards of Aurora Energy Pty Ltd and Sydney Health Partners and is a member of the boards of AEMO Services Ltd and the Silverchain Group.

Emeritus Prof Martin Betts

Co-founder, HEDx

This panel brings Mary O’Kane (via video) into dialogue with Professor Martin Betts, former DVC Engagement (Griffith) and founder of the highly influential content and advisory service HEDx; and Professor Hilary Winchester AM,  (Vice-President Governance and University Secretary, Charles Darwin University) to discuss the Accord and its potential to reshape Australian higher education.

I co-founded HEDx as content and advisory services that are changing higher education for good. I am a leader and innovator in the higher education sector with experience as a Deputy Vice Chancellor of Engagement and Executive Dean of STEM, Design, Built Environment and Business disciplines. I have a passion for strategy, culture, leadership, industry engagement and advancement. I have academic and executive experience of universities in Europe, Asia and Australia and currently work with the leading global universities. I am co-author of two books on the New Leadership Agenda and the New Learning Economy outlining principles and strategies that will inform the future of higher education.

Prof Hilary Winchester

Director and Principal, Hilary Winchester Pty Ltd

This panel brings Mary O’Kane (via video) into dialogue with Professor Martin Betts, former DVC Engagement (Griffith) and founder of the highly influential content and advisory service HEDx; and Professor Hilary Winchester AM,  (Vice-President Governance and University Secretary, Charles Darwin University) to discuss the Accord and its potential to reshape Australian higher education.

Hilary is Director and Principal of Hilary Winchester Pty Ltd, specialising in Higher Education Quality Assurance, audits, reviews and compliance assessment.

Hilary was the recipient of the 2011 Australian Higher Education Quality Award and was a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2016 (Queensland).

Hilary was Provost at CQUniversity from 2012-2016, including a period as Interim Vice-Chancellor July-October 2016. Her portfolio included the Offices of Research, Learning & Teaching and Indigenous Engagement, and all six higher education schools. Results in the Australian Research Council’s Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative improved dramatically under her leadership.

Hilary’s previous senior appointments include Pro Vice Chancellor: Strategy & Planning at the University of South Australia, Pro Vice Chancellor (Academic) at Flinders University, and President of Academic Senate at the University of Newcastle.

In recognition of these achievements, Hilary has been awarded the title of Emeritus Professor of the University of South Australia and of CQUniversity.

She was an AUQA auditor for 10 years and has been a panel member for the Australian Research Council and an assessor for the former Australian Learning & Teaching Council. She is an international auditor for quality agencies in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, and the Middle East.

Hilary has been co-convenor of the group of Executive Women affiliated to and supported by Universities Australia. In this role, she spear-headed the development of the sector-wide Second Action Plan for Women, which established targets for women’s participation in senior roles in Universities.

Prof David J Hornsby

Virtual program only keynote speaker

Carleton University, Canada

Universities have a responsibility to foster a more just society. As institutions for the public good, universities function for the good of society – shaping knowledge, the economy, the environment, society more broadly, as well as fostering the whole person. Treating this responsibility seriously requires real intention in making our pedagogical practices and experiences supportive of social transformation. This keynote will explore the power and possibilities of adopting socially-just pedagogies and living up to the important calls for universities that treat equity, diversity, inclusion, accessibility and reconciliation seriously.

Professor David J Hornsby is a Professor in the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs and the Associate Vice-President (Teaching and Learning) at Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Prior to joining Carleton, David held faculty positions at University College London, UK and the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Johannesburg South Africa. A passionate educator, David believes in the power of pedagogy to foster a more just society. David holds a PhD from the University of Cambridge and has taught and published extensively in the areas of international relations and pedagogy in higher education.