IFCU putting ACU on the world map

Thursday, 27 August 2015

IFCU-Presidents-Roundtable International Federation of Catholic Universities Presidents Roundtable.

Provost Professor Pauline Nugent explains how IFCU has helped ACU build a strong network of partners around the world. 

In the wake of the highly successful 25th General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities (IFCU) and a number of other important international university gatherings that were hosted by ACU at our Melbourne Campus in July 2015, our Provost Pauline Nugent explains how the University is putting itself on the world map. 

The International Federation of Catholic Universities brought together more than 200 Catholic universities from around the globe. How did hosting this gathering help to put ACU on the world map?

ACU won the right to host the 25th IFCU General Assembly in 2015 in Melbourne. It was a privilege for ACU to be successful in this endeavour, amongst leading Catholic universities. The Vice-Chancellor and I pitched for the opportunity whilst attending the IFCU General Assembly in Sao Paulo in 2012. Our selection as host and our success in delivering the 25th General Assembly further cemented our place as the largest Catholic University in the English speaking world. Additionally, our profile as a dynamic university with many key achievements in our relatively short history was showcased amongst IFCU members across the world.

The 25th General Assembly, along with other gatherings of international universities held around this time at our Melbourne Campus, consisted of a two-week program of events. What were the main areas of focus?

ACU hosted four events during a two-week period including the 25th IFCU General Assembly and related events, which was a way of encouraging greater participation, engaging domestic and international stakeholders and providing fora to explore related themes in more depth.

ACU’s flagship event, the Presidents’ Roundtable, focused on internationalisation and collaboration and was highly successful. Related themes across all events included the unifying power of the Catholic mission, the power of community engagement and higher education leadership. The official theme of the IFCU General Assembly, “Times Change, Values Endure” integrated a number of these themes.

ACU has big plans to build on its reputation has an international university. How did hosting the 25th General Assembly of the International Federation of Catholic Universities improve our standing as an international university?

The series of four interrelated events gave ACU the opportunity to showcase some of our leading achievements on an international stage. These included:
  • ACU’s Core Curriculum
  • ACU’s suite of Community Engagement work
  • ACU’s work in establishing an offshore centre with The Catholic University of America (CUA) in Rome; a unique tripartite endeavour
  • work of ACU’s faculties offshore in varied offshore markets
  • work of ACU’s International Directorate in establishing a vast network of international partnerships
  • ACU’s Internationalisation Strategy
  • ACU’s successful enrolment profile within a domestic context that is secular in nature.
ACU plans to ensure that by 2017 at least 12.5 per cent of all our Australian undergraduate students have an international experience during their degree. How important are the University’s international universities partners in helping to achieve this goal? 

ACU’s extensive network of international partners is critical to the University achieving its targets in relation to international experiences for our undergraduate students. Most of our students will undertake their studies through partner collaboration. These partners are mostly universities but also include international Catholic agencies and not-for-profit organisations. 

Another big area of focus for ACU is boosting our reputation for world-class research, especially in the areas of health, education, theology, social justice and the common good. How do networks like the International Federation of Catholic Universities and bilateral university partnerships help ACU achieve this ambition? 

IFCU provides an essential network to facilitate research collaboration.  Alongside our current and prospective bilateral international partnerships, the international networks such as IFCU offer important opportunities for the sharing of research outcomes and forums within which to discuss and develop bilateral and multilateral collaborations.

There is a growing focus on international education in Australia among universities, economists and policy makers. What are some of the other big things in store for ACU in the international education arena and how will they benefit ACU students and academics?

ACU will continue our international engagement, which offers rich opportunities for staff and students and is an essential feature of a contemporary international higher education experience. Some key developments include:

Further deployment of ACU’s Core Curriculum to include our joint Rome Centre and other destinations, including Asia.
  • Development of formation courses for our staff and students in conjunction with offshore partners.
  • A renewed focus on academic internationalisation, through forming closer relationships with leading Catholic higher education institutions. Drawing on the strengths of leading Catholic universities across the world, ACU will further and deepen our reach, presence and academic strength through international collaboration. This would be achieved via collaboration across various international education models across varied geographic regions, unified by the Catholic Intellectual Tradition.
  • ACU has developed an integrated Internationalisation Strategy which provides overarching focus and direction to the University’s international activities and aligns with and informs the University’s Strategic Plan and Mission. The strategy includes objectives, outcomes and timelines. Of particular interest is the University’s idea of the International Classroom, where the aim is to ensure that all of our students have international perspectives and experiences integrated into their study experience even if they don’t have the opportunity to travel abroad. 
  • International Community Engagement is an established and growing feature of faculty internationalisation. For example our Faculty of Health Sciences has been running a very successful “Future in Youth Program” in Timor-Leste, which involves Exercise Science students engaged in sports training (soccer) with local children, linked to ACU’s Exercise Science curriculum. This Faculty also offers a “Barefoot Nursing” program in East Timor for our nursing students; as well as a new offering in Uganda to begin in 2015 for ACU’s Nursing, Midwifery and Public Health Students. Importantly, these community engagement opportunities can dovetail as practical placements, fulfilling the students’ discipline accreditation requirements. 
These types of international community engagement examples provide a rich opportunity for ACU students and staff to practically participate in a community project of real value to a local community, which also has strong links to students’ learning and vocational pathways. Our students speak of the transformative impact of these opportunities.  

While international education has a significant role to play in Australia’s export agenda and policy platform, our focus is enriching our own students’ journey through increased opportunities for international engagement both here in Australia and offshore as well as offering internationalised curricula. Our international partnerships are also critical to our identity as a Catholic university and to the development of our reputation as a leading Catholic international university.

Rev Michael Calmano, SVD, President, Nanzan University and President, Association of East and South East Asian Catholic Colleges and Universities - (ASEACCU)
Prof Olivier Echappé, Faculty of Canon Law, Institut Catholique de Paris
Prof Wayne McKenna, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, ACU
Mme Thérèse Lebrun, President-Recteur Delegue Sante-Social, Université Catholique de Lille
Prof Pauline Nugent, Provost, ACU
Rector Ignacio Sánchez, MD, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile 
Prof Greg Craven, Vice-Chancellor, ACU
Dr Michael Galligan-Stierle, President, Association of Catholic Colleges & Universities
Mrs Pamela Galligan-Stierle