Unis Aus makes a (somewhat) new case for funding

Researchers believe government would sign blank funding cheques if only voters knew the wonders they work on.

Universities Australia has had cracks at campaigns advertising science gee-whizzery on that assumption, but they made few inroads to voters hearts or Treasury’s coffers.

Now UA is having a another go, with a new(ish) ‘communications’ campaign. : “Universities matter because of what matters to us” is the pitch.

It’s a new brand campaign for the sector as a whole, which goes beyond previous “Australian researchers invented the thingatron so hand over the cash” approaches.

For a start, it is designed for Australia now, where masses of people with no previous engagement with universities have a son at one, studying to be a nurse, a daughter in a teaching course. An Australia where people want to know what they and their families get in return for funding universities.

Thus UA’s new messages is, “universities matter because we need ….” followed by a host of variables ranging from the generic “better treatments and cures” to “more aged-care nurses” and “to keep our farms biosecure.”

Staff in the humanities and discovery research could be forgiven for wondering why the spotlight has barely touched them, but it’s a campaign that is another attempt to present universities as practical institutions addressing practical problems. The campaign website pulls together a chorus-line of research stories giving careful weighting to each institution, presumably based on campaign research that shows science breakthroughs are what voters value.

Plus, the last time a government talked up the society-changing power of technology and innovation, Prime Minister Turnbull nearly lost the 2016 election. When he said “innovation” people heard “unemployment.”

“Universities matter” extends UA’s 2018-19 “university research changes lives” social media campaign which included researchers taking about their work and people who it helped describing the difference it made. Strong messages, but made at a glacial pace. The impact of Universities Matter will be monitored carefully to see if it can have a greater impact on the hearts and minds of the Australian voting public.



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