Controversies Seminar Series 2016

The Controversies seminar series returns, for the fourth year, with fresh issues to investigate over the course of three new seminars in 2016.

The Controversies series is an interactive seminar series hosted annually by Victoria University. The series aims to probe complex and current issues in an engaging and interactive format with a panel of expert speakers. 

Seminar 1: Combining research excellence and student equity – Mission possible?

Date: Thursday 14 July 2016
Time: Arrive at 6.45pm for 7.15pm start.
Where: VU City Convention Centre, Level 12, 300 Flinders Street, Melbourne, 3004

Universities in Australia, and internationally, are under pressure to demonstrate research excellence, in order to compete in various rankings, be eligible for government funding, and attract high-flying students.

At the same time, policy efforts to widen participation in higher education also hold universities accountable for their achievements towards greater student equity.

In the first Controversies seminar for 2016, The Victoria Institute invites you to join us as we ask: 'Can universities do both?'


Professor Caroline McMillen will speak to the University of Newcastle experience of balancing research excellence and student equity. Professor McMillen joined the University of Newcastle as Vice-Chancellor and President in October 2011.

She has dedicated almost 30 years to the higher education sector, holding leadership roles across research, innovation and teaching. Professor McMillen has stated: "The University of Newcastle since its foundation has valued equity and excellence absolutely equally". She will illustrate what that looks like at and how that works in practice – and discuss how policies help or hinder achieving this balance.

Following Professor McMillen's presentation, two discussants will provide a response:

  • Prof Peter Dawkins, Vice Chancellor and President, Victoria University (VU)
  • James Sorensen, a VU student who started in a Cert II and is now doing his PhD in Medical Pharmacophysiology.

The event will conclude with an audience Q&A involving all three speakers.

Register now


Seminar 2: Robots won’t replace teachers…will they?

Date: Thursday 18 August 2016
Time: 6pm - 7:30pm (arrive at 5:30pm)
Venue: Experimedia, State Library Victoria, 328 Swanston St, Melbourne, VIC, 3000
RSVP: 18 August 2016

AVID Australia and National Science Week is offering you the chance to hear from prominent physicist and education innovator, Professor Eric Mazur from Harvard University on what the future holds for science and education.

Last year, a report commissioned by PWC found that “75% of the fastest growing occupations require Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) skills”. In stark contrast only 16% of Australian secondary school students pursue studies in the STEM disciplines, and this number continues to decline. If this trend continues, will Australian students be ready for the future job market?

These statistics make for particularly alarming reading when we consider that not only will science create more jobs in the future but scientific developments are also likely to replace many existing jobs. A recent Four Corners investigation revealed that experts now predict robots and the automation of manual labour will replace 40% of Australian jobs in the next 20 years (that’s 5 million jobs by today’s figures). Will this phenomenon extend to teachers? How should we prepare Australian students for their future? Will robots replace teachers? Join us as we investigate these questions and more.

AVID Australia and National Science Week proudly present Robots won’t replace teachers…will they?. This is the second seminar in The Victoria Institute’s Controversies seminar series for 2016. The panel of experts features Professor Eric Mazur from Harvard University, Lead Scientist Victoria, Ms Leonie Walsh, and Dr Peter Goss from the Grattan Institute who will ask probing questions of the panel. 

Register now to secure your seat for what is certain to be a fascinating discussion.

Register Now!   


Professor Mazur is one of the most knowledgeable and passionate experts in the field of Science and the art of teaching it well. His award-winning work in teaching science in an engaging and interactive way, known as “peer instruction”, is recognised worldwide for driving dramatic improvements in students’ learning outcomes (in some cases tripling student improvement outcomes).

He has won numerous prestigious accolades for his work and has published nearly 1,500 papers in peer-reviewed journals and a number of other books. Professor Eric Mazur simultaneously holds three Chairs at Harvard: he is both the Balkanski Professor of Physics and Applied Physics and was recently appointed as the Chair of the Graduate School of Education. It is rare to find someone as qualified in both Science and Education as Professor Mazur. 

Joining Professor Mazur on the panel will be:

  • Dr Peter Goss, Grattan Institute
  • Ms Leonie Walsh, Former Lead Scientist, Victoria
  • Mr Andrew Peach, Principal Marsden Secondary College and Chair of National Science Week, Queensland
  • Professor Ian Solomonides, PVC Learning Innovation and Quality, Victoria University


See all news