The New Social Contract

What does COVID-19 mean for universities?

‘The New Social Contract‘ is a podcast that examines how the relationship between universities, the state and the public might be reshaped as we live through this global pandemic.

Universities have existed for close to a thousand years. Across the centuries they have been places for making sense of the world and for shaping it.

But it would be a mistake to see universities as static and unchanging.

Under the pressures of war, political rupture and social and economic demands, they’ve often been remade. So, is this what we’re experiencing now, as COVID-19 rips through our lives?

The higher education sector is facing long-lasting financial and academic stress, with lost international student fee revenue alone projected at up to $15 billion. Meanwhile our students are looking at a future in which they bear the costs both of this pandemic and the continuing ecological crisis. What will they demand of universities as they make lives in a very different kind of world? The uncertainty is making it difficult for everyone, university leaders, academics and students. ‘The New Social Contract’ seeks to contribute to a conversation about the kind of higher education sector our society needs. By using the lens of the past, present (and even the future), it will investigate what the public can legitimately demand of their universities, and how higher education in Australia might be remade. The series is hosted by Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch, an expert in the history and politics of universities.

Media partnership

Impact Studios established a media partnership with The Conversation, where five companion articles linked to episodes in the series were published.

The Conversation articles have been an interdisciplinary, cross-institutional collaboration and have received over 50,000 views



Universities have gone from being a place of privilege to a competitive market. What will they be after coronavirus? authored by Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch, Dr Gwilym Croucher, Senior Lecturer in the Melbourne Centre for the Study of Higher Education (CSHE), and Dr James Waghorne, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Higher Education at the University of Melbourne – published May 6 2020

How universities came to rely on international students authored by Julia Horne, Associate Professor in History at the University of Sydney – published May 22

Climate change is the most important mission for universities of the 21st century authored by Lauren Rickards, co-leader of the Climate Change and Resilience research program of the Centre for Urban Research at RMIT and Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch

University students aren’t cogs in a market. They need more than a narrow focus on ‘skills’ authored by Leesa Wheelahan, Professor & William G. Davis Chair in Community College Leadership, University of Toronto and Associate Professor Tamson Pietsch

After coronavirus, universities must collaborate with communities to support social transition authored by Verity Firth, Executive Director Social Justice, University of Technology Sydney, and Professor Jim Nyland, Associate Vice Chancellor, Australian Catholic University

The New Social Contract team