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.

The ACDS Strategic Plan sets out the goals and actions including priority projects for 2022. 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.

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.



Leading improvements in University Science teaching and learning

Quality and the Bachelor of Science

Project lead: Susan Howitt
Development and review of degree programs is now more challenging than ever, with requirements to demonstrate quality assurance, engage stakeholders, and provide systematic evidence for the achievement of course and student outcomes. Rather than be reactive in these circumstances there is an opportunity to be proactive, to share approaches to quality assurance that demonstrate the achievement of program and graduate learning outcomes, as well as benchmarking with appropriate comparison institutions.
The ACDS is holding a regular series of workshops intended to build a national community of practice among those with responsibility for these course development and review. They focus on the BSc as an exemplar degree common to most institutions.  A comprehensive  BSc (where students chose from multiple majors) is complex because of the
·        wide range of student interests and pathways needed to cater for them.
·        requirement to meet employment and graduate capability outcomes
·        broad range of its stakeholders, student, academic and industry
·        need to promote more critical and creative thinking as well as soft skills over and above technical capability
The workshops will engage science educational leaders in structured experiences and methodologies that assist them to come to grips with these challenges in the design and review of a BSc, and to gain awareness of the variety of ways in which their colleagues are meeting these challenges nationally.
Reimagining assessment

Project lead: Susan Howitt and Andrew Woodward
The requirement to move teaching delivery and assessment online in the face of COVID-19 has led to a crisis in ensuring academic integrity. Solutions to the crisis often focus on better policing rather than a re-examination of assessment and innovations that adapt to a changed environment.
The ACDS has commissioned a series of workshops aimed at upskilling science teaching and learning leaders in assessment design. The need to move away from forms of assessment that rely on invigilated in person examination provides a good opportunity to review learning objectives and align assessments to them, and to support the learning environments that achieve them. In particular, it provides opportunity to move further from rote technicalities to promotion of problem solving, critical thinking and incorporation of the ‘soft skills’ required for employment.
Review the Science Threshold Learning Outcomes (TLO’s)

Project leads: Susan Howitt and Mark Buntine
The Science TLOs are a national discipline reference point for curriculum design, assessment standards and benchmarking between institutions. They are a consensus view from Australian universities about what a science or mathematical science graduate should know and be able to do. They are important in developing agreed standards for science graduates across the Australian higher education sector.
The Science TLOs were established over ten years ago and stand in need of review. There are important areas not currently addressed in the TLO’s, such as Indigenous science, cultural competence more broadly and work-integrated learning/employability skills. It is also timely to consider increased emphasis on critical thinking, problem solving and cross disciplinary experience.
In 2022, the ACDS will engage the teaching and learning leadership of Australian university science, through its Teaching and Learning Centre, to review the Science TLOs and ensure that they continue to be fit for purpose.

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

Industry engagement with university science

Project lead: John Bartlett, Virginia Kilborn and Eileen McLaughlin
In Australia industries and universities are being called upon to forge more productive ways of working together so as to improve the flow of economic innovation. This will involve new ideas about how to organise and manage their interactions. It will require more nuanced attention to and understanding of each others’ culture and goals, and an evolution of them that facilitates greater engagement.
In order to promote such constructive change in the area of university science the ACDS is establishing an annual University Science and Industry Forum.

Among the goals of the Forum are to:
· Highlight innovations in organisation and practices that improve engagement and collaboration, what kinds of people are involved, and what roles they play.
· provide new appreciation of opportunities for exciting industry careers, particularly among science postgraduate students and early career researchers.
· Showcase experiences and provide deeper insight into the cultures of basic research and innovation and the interplay between them
Extending the culture of university science

Project leads: Eileen McLaughlin and John Bartlett
The “Extending the culture of university science” webinar series aims to enable those responsible for leadership in science faculties that support the conduct of science research to explore the ideas and insights of key stakeholders on challenges and solutions for creating a research culture more inclusive of translational research.
One focus of the series is on exploring how science faculties, who are highly focussed on curiosity led research, can respond to increasing demands for research impact and engagement with research end-users. On the other hand the series hopes to raise awareness of the value of curiosity research among external stakeholders, and to ensure that universities are not under pressure to sacrifice good science in response to demands for change.
The ACDS will hold four webinars each involving chief scientists, university research leaders and leaders of key industry and government bodies that impact science research in Australia.
Evidence-based lobbying to drive improved research sustainability and translationThe 2020 Higher Education reforms have separated government funding for teaching and research. While a reduction in teaching funding has already been implemented, and transition funding for teaching and research provided, long-term changes to research funding have yet to be finalised. It is critical that these changes recognise the full cost of research and inclusively enable research translation.

Elevating the profile of Australian university science

Showcasing Australian university science and the ACDS

Project leads: John Rice, Brian Yates and Glenda Key
Australian university science is now quite diverse, in its research, the roles of its people and its organisation. It is engaged in translational research to a much greater extent than in earlier generations, and its people can be basic researchers, industry oriented researchers, teaching focused, and entrepreneurial leaders among many other things. Science is often organised into multi-disciplinary disciplinary units such as science and engineering or science and health, rather than stand alone science faculties.
The ACDS is committed to promoting an authentic contemporary picture of Australian university science. It will do this through the activities displayed on its website, but most importantly through its magazine Australian University Science  creating opportunities for advocacy and debate on key policy issues relevant to university science. While earlier issues have focussed on translational research and the contributions of university science to issues such as energy, health and food and water security, future issues will also highlight the unique character of fundamental research and its interplay with translation.
The ACDS has formed a Communications Subcommittee to oversee its website, direct production of the magazine, and to plan communications strategies around these resources.
Enhance the value and reputation of the ACDS within university science
Run multiple events, such as interactive sessions with key leaders across a range of organisations, including a Dean’s Mentoring Program that provides confidential and independent support and guidance for Deans, and a sounding board for problem solving and strategic planning.
Supporting equity, diversity and inclusion in university science

Project leads: Melissa Brown, Brian Yates and Andrew Woodward
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.