How Macquarie University is leveraging innovative partnerships to drive revenue

After day two of Higher Education Revenue Models, it seems there is a general consensus among people in the room that the key to successful adaptation ofthe major upcoming changes to funding and higher education policy will be to evolve revenue models.

While there has been a lot of talk at the conference about how to make universities more commercial in a changing marketplace, one presentation that stood out was the case study on Macquarie University’s Big History Institute.

Andrew McKenna, Executive Director of the Big History Institute took the stage and explored how the university is engaging in partnerships with government, non-for profit and business sectors to collaboratively develop an innovative research program which has had big results for the university’s bottom line.

According to McKenna, the traditional notion and function of a university is changing. As a result, universities must engage with the community in research projects to remain relevant in a competitive environment.

“The core idea of the university as we know it is under assault from outside forces and requires a carefully thought response from universities,” he said.

And if the Big History Instituteis anything to go by, Macquarie University is responding in all the right ways by expanding the concept of the community and raising the university’s profile amongst the private, public, non-for profit and government sectors.

“It’s easier to see the value of a community from the inside. From the inside, it’s easier to become involved, share ideas, collaborate and then support the community from a funding point of view,” McKenna said.

Big History has been taught at Macquarie University since 1989, and with the establishment of the Big History Institute in 2012, Macquarie University has successfully  expanded their community and engaged in partnerships with many other universities and other organisations to drive engagement and revenue.

McKenna says that the key to successful expansion and working in partnership with other organisations is engagement, connection and value creation within the community they already have: past alumni and students.

“Whilst corporations race to convert customers to community members. Universities need to step back and realise the value they already have within their existing communities.

Universities are incredibly complex organisations and as such they need a grand strategy and vision which can continually unite communities across research, engagement, corporate and international portfolios,” he said.

The university is also leveraging international relationships to drive and expand the the institute.

Macquarie University’s Professor David Christian, founder of Big History, has received support from philanthropist Bill Gates, with whom he co-founded the Big History Project, a free online resource aimed at high-school students, in 2011.  “The Big History Institute is dedicated to disseminating Big History to a wide global audience. We are committed to outreach efforts with schools and communities around the world to promote the study of Big History,” said McKenna.

Higher Education Revenue Models took place 26 – 27 November this week in Sydney. If you’re interested in finding out more about the conference or our future higher education events follow us on LinkedIn or email



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