Government to announce new taskforce to stop foreign interference at unis

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan. Source: AAP

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan will address foreign interference at universities and improving access to higher education for Indigenous students.

Universities, national security groups and bureaucrats will band together to prevent foreign interference at Australia's universities.

Federal Education Minister Dan Tehan will use an address at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday to announce a new taskforce to combat the issue.

The taskforce will aim to build the sector's cyber resilience while preventing undue influence and damage to university systems.

University vice-chancellors are already set to receive a cybersecurity briefing from the Australian Signals Directorate, after nearly 20 years' worth of personal data was hacked from the Australian National University.

One of the areas the taskforce will focus on is how universities collaborate with foreign groups.

"That will ensure collaboration with foreign entities will be transparent and in a manner that avoids harm to Australia's interests," Mr Tehan will say.

The minister is also set to announce $35 million for an underground laboratory at the Stawell gold mine in western Victoria where dark matter is being researched.

"The discovery of dark matter will create a completely new branch of physics and astronomy," he will say.

"It is the equivalent of discovering a parallel universe."

Mr Tehan will also lay out a 10-year plan to boost the numbers of Indigenous, regional and low-income students in higher education.

The plan has been developed from a review led by former Victorian Liberal premier Denis Napthine, who made seven recommendations help more regional Australians attend university.

The minister says the approach requires resetting government's relationship with the sector and "reshaping our higher education architecture".

Mr Tehan told a forum in Brisbane on Tuesday that higher education has an important role to play in Closing the Gap between the wellbeing of Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.

"(Also) in conquering the city-country divide, in supporting people with disabilities and in lifting people out of disadvantage into a better life," he said.

Mr Tehan will also outline federal government plans to seek feedback from students about freedom of expression on campus.

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