A Vision for University Science

For more than a century, Australian university science has made game-changing discoveries and achieved extraordinary impact on our environment, our health and our quality of life and work. Concurrently, university science has trained and nurtured generations of scientists and scientific minds that society needs to rapidly adapt to the growing global challenges of the 21st Century.

University science is the only sector that gives graduates the broad knowledge and specialist skills needed to create and work in innovative industries, and keep us ahead of our changing world. By bringing university science together as a sector across the 40+ institutions where science learning and research happens, the Australian Council of Deans of Science can uniquely provide a cohesive vision of university science — its legacy, continued impact and vision for the future. We are ambitious in our goals of delivering a renewed vision of universities science teaching and learning, research translation, and
celebrating and elevating the profile of Australian university science.

A summary of the ACDS Strategic Plan is provided below, including a summary of 2024 projects and initiatives.

Specifically, our goals are:

  • To drive improvements in university science teaching and learning, pedagogy, curriculum design, and scholarship of teaching and learning.
  • To advocate for sustainable research excellence and research translation, for the benefit of industry and the community, and to enhance Australia’s sovereign capability.
  • To advance the development of the next generation of global science leaders, through professional development and industry engagement.
  • To elevate the profile of Australian university science and the influence and effectiveness of the ACDS through high quality communication with key stakeholders and end users, and positive engagement between Science Deans.

Science provides the key to understanding the physical and living world. As well as the fundamental knowledge provided by science, its application is central to our ability to live in the modern world, to provide resources, to grow our economy, and to care for our community, our health and our environment. We hope you will join us on our journey to deliver the best quality Australian science capability and workforce.

Professor Melissa Brown,
President, ACDS

ACDS 2021-2025 Strategic Plan

The ACDS delivers benefits to university science by:

Stragegic Plan Goal 1


The Australian Council of Deans of Science has a long and proud history of supporting university science educators and academic leaders through the ACDS Teaching and Learning Centre. The Centre provides opportunities to debate significant national issues and lead the development of strategies to influence policy, achieve higher education standards and develop communities of practice that enhance teaching and learning, and share as well as showcase teaching scholarship.

Ongoing focus areas include Work Integrated Learning, Year 12 prerequisites, the role of education-focussed academics, threshold learning outcomes and incorporating Indigenous knowledge into Science curricula.


The ACDS National Research Network is a collective of research organisational leaders in Australia’s science faculties and schools. The network stimulates the generation and exchange of ideas on enhancing, managing and sustaining a culture of science research excellence and impact in universities, for the benefit of industry and the community, and to enhance Australia’s sovereign capability. It informs national consensus and national policy positions that in turn help Science Deans maintain and expand the quality and influence of University Science research in Australia. The ACDS also leads initiatives that boost industry engagement and career prospects for, and development of, early career scientists.

Stragegic Plan Goal 2

Strategic Plan Goal 3


In order to influence and drive change in university science teaching and research, it is critical that the ACDS is recognised as an authoritative and trusted organisation that listens, acts and achieves outcomes for the sector. This is achieved in part by reputation, but also through effective communication with key stakeholders and end users, and positive engagement between Science Deans.

Areas of focus include (but are not limited to) a strong presence in print, online and social media, regular meetings with Chief Scientists, and strong engagement with Science and Technology Australia. A strong sense of inclusion and value by the Deans and Associate Deans is also essential and is achieved through forums and mentoring programs.

Summary of 2024 priority projects and initiatives

Leading improvements in University Science teaching and learning

Establish an ACDS Assessment Community of Practice

Project leads: Susan Howitt and Birgit Loch
Assessment is a challenging but often neglected aspect of teaching. Traditional practices have been challenged by the move to online and the rise of gen AI. New approaches are needed to assure assessment integrity and alignment with course/unit and overall program learning outcomes.
In 2024, the ACDS will establish Assessment Community of Practice to bring together science academics to share good practice and initiatives in assessment. Activities of the Assessment Community of Practice will be shared to all subscribers of the ACDS T&L Centre Newsletter.
Mentoring programs and/or resources for Associate Dean’s Teaching and Learning

Project lead: Susan Howitt and Mark Buntine
The ACDS has has a mentoring program for Dean’s. The Associate Dean’s Teaching and Learning (or equivalent) have expressed enthusiasm for mentoring and greater interaction with others in the same role.
In 2024, the ACDS will engage the teaching and learning leadership of Australian university science to explore opportunities to facilitate mentoring interactions between Associate Deans Teaching and Learning (or equivalent, ADE, ADA, ADT&L etc).
New T&L Fellowship program: to Engage and support nationally recognised experts and leaders in Science Teaching and Learning

Project lead: Susan Howitt
Contributors: Brian Yates, Melissa Brown, Liz Johnson, Merlin Crossley
The ACDS through its Teaching and Learning Centre works with science faculties and their stakeholders to promote advances in quality teaching and learning practices in science and mathematics. A major focus for the ACDS is to identify policy issues and seek to identify and promote consensus, providing a strong national voice on teaching and learning.

In 2024 the ACDS will establish a national Teaching and Learning Fellowship program (ACDS Teaching and Learning Fellows) to support leaders who drive and advocate for excellence in Australian university science teaching and learning.  The ACDS will support the fellows in national advocacy for their findings and more generally as advocates for sound policy development in university science and mathematics education.

Driving sustainable research excellence and research translation, and advancing the development of the next generation of global science leaders

Enhance the Research Leadership profile of the ACDS

Project leads: John Bartlett
Contributors: David Coutts, Katherine Fairfull-Smith, Bronwyn Gillanders, Steven Reddy, Eric Wapstra and Coral Warr
As the organisational leadership of Australian University Science Research, the science ADR’s benefit from a collegial forum for networking and exchange of ideas.

In 2024 the ACDS will:
– engage with the ADR working group to identify issues and opportunities to guide future initiatives including working towards establishing a virtual ACDS Centre for Science & Innovation;
– host the NRF as a face-to-face event at LaTrobe University;
– introduce a program ofon-line Discussion Forums for Associate Dean’s Research to share ideas, best practice and facilitate collaboration as an ADR Community of Practice.
Enable development of research partnerships with end-users

Project lead: John Bartlett
Contributor: Katrina Falkner
University science researchers must engage productively with end-users, including Industry and government, and where appropriate ensure a focus on collaboration across discipline boundaries. The NRF and ADR webinar series (Discussion Forums) are beginning to explore this issue. Consideration of the ACDS’s further role in helping members to address this strategic imperative is needed.
In 2024 the ACDS will establish a working group to explore areas where relationships between university research and end-users have flourished and consider lessons learned in other areas (e.g. ITTCs and ITRHs) to inform further work the ACDS could undertake to strengthen the university science research-ender user nexus, with a focus on university-industry engagement.
Support career progression of EMCRs

Project lead: John Bartlett
Contributors: Shaun Collin
There is a pressing need to identify and promote secure career opportunities for EMCRs including in non-academic careers. Many EMCRs are on short-term contracts with few prospects for obtaining secure, continuing roles in universities.

In 2024 the ACDS will undertake a program of work focussing on understanding the support and career development of science EMCRs. An important aspect will be to engage with similar Councils and like-minded organisations to explore and document complementary EMCR capacity-building initiatives. The objective is to highlight challenging and fulfilling career options (including the required skills) outside of academia. The outcomes of this will help inform the program of the 2024 NRF and other initiatives of the ACDS.

Elevating the profile of Australian university science

Showcasing Australian university science and the ACDS

Project lead: Brian Yates
Contributors: Tony Willis supported by Glenda Key
The ACDS is committed to promoting an authentic contemporary picture of Australian university science.
The ACDS, through its internal Communications Advisory Group aims to improve its communication and engagement with member universities and the diverse stakeholders including in the government and industry sectors through multiple media channels.

In 2024 the ACDS will implement the evolving Communications Strategy and its various components (social media, magazine, digital content, newsletter etc.). A focus will be to improve engagement and seek feedback from Deans and other stakeholders in order to refine the approaches for 2025.
Enhance the value and reputation of the ACDS within member university science faculties
Project lead: Tony Willis
Contributors: All Executive Committee members

It is essential that members of the ACDS fully benefit from their membership and see this as valuable resource, an opportunity for strategic networking, and a portal for influence within the Higher Education sector.

To achieve this, the ACDS will continue to run multiple events, such as interactive sessions with key leaders across a range of organisations, including the Dean’s Mentoring Program that provides confidential and independent support and guidance for Deans, and a sounding board for problem solving and strategic planning.

Commencing in 2024 the ACDS will host ‘roadshow’ meetings in major cities, inviting Deans and Associate Dean’s of member universities to meet with members of the Executive Committee to brainstorm ideas and seek input and feedback on priorities, initiatives and issues facing university science leadership.
Engage with policy makers and peak bodies, including in industry
Project leads: Tony Willis, Melissa Brown, Brian Yates, John Bartlett
In order to influence and drive change in University science teaching and research, it is critical that the ACDS is recognized as an authoritative and trusted organization that listens, acts and achieves outcomes for the sector. This is achieved in part by reputation, but also through effective communication with senior decision-makers and key peak bodies in science and industry.

In 2024 the ACDS will have a focus on activity to engage with senior Australian government officials, ministers, industry leaders and peak bodies through targeted meetings and activities.
30 years of advocacy for university science by the ACDS
Project leads: Tony Willis, Brian Yates.
Supported by Glenda Key
In 2025 the ACDS will achieve 30 yours of operation as a Council advocating for and supporting Australian University Science.

This milestone is an opportunity to engage with industry, government, and the broader community to champion the value and importance of University Science.

In 2024 the ACDS will develop an activity and communications plan to mark 30 years of operation.
Strengthening the organisational structure and operation the ACDS
Project leads: Mark Buntine, Tony Willis.
The ACDS became an Incorporated Association registered in Victoria in late 2023.

As part of the change to the legal identity and status of the Council the Executive is taking the opportunity to review and where appropriate establish policies to ensure values of equity, diversity and inclusion and anti discrimination are clearly communicated. To support members of the Executive Committee and to ensure good governance business practice guidelines are also being developed.
Supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in university science

Project leads: Melissa Brown, All Executive Committee members
Cultivating talent and promoting the full inclusion of staff and students from across the social spectrum is fundamental to advancing the scientific endeavour.
The lack of diversity in university science (staff and students) represents a loss of talent.  The ACDS is committed to the principles of EDI and seeks to share policies, practices and decision-making frameworks that redress issues of access, equity, diversity and inclusion for staff and students. 
The ACDS Equity, Diversity and Inclusion webpage includes quick links to further information including Government data sources and reports, frameworks, and strategies.  Member universities are invited to contribute exemplars of their initiatives and strategies that formalise their commitment to EDI in university science and have broader application to other universities.