Linda Brown

CEO and President Torrens University Australia

President and CEO of Australia’s only private for-profit university, Linda Brown has always been a change-maker and disruptor. This energy ignites the global ambition of Torrens University as a Certified B-Corporation and its impact as the nation’s first new university in more than 20 years. Linda was the EY Entrepreneur Of The Year Australian winner in 2021, for her entrepreneurial approach to tertiary education, which has over the past decade become one of Australia’s biggest service exports.

Torrens is also its fastest-growing university in Australia, with state-of-the-art campuses in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, the Blue Mountains of NSW, one in Auckland, and one in China. Since it first opened its doors in 2013, the university has grown from 164 students to more than 20,000 from 118 countries.

Linda has focused on instilling an entrepreneurial spirit across Torrens University – true to her motto “culture is king” and her passion for creating a university for the future. With a firm conviction that private investment can create public good, Linda relentlessly champions accessibility to ensure an education without borders, with student happiness and industry connection at the centre of Torrens University.

When Torrens University first opened its doors in Adelaide in 2014, it was clear things would be done differently. The focus on the employability of graduates was one example of the departure from the traditional; another was the personal connection with students. At the same time, establishing the university was regarded as a risky move by many in Australia and globally. Linda’s NorthStar is her belief in developing talent. She prides herself on being surrounded with exceptional talented people. In her words, ‘ideally, unicorns who are commercial and purpose-driven through the power of education for all.’ This is how she has instilled a start-up entrepreneurial spirit whilst ensuring an ethos of connecting the world for good.

She has led a laser focus on ensuring a student-centric university, offering progressive courses and unique industry connections, including incorporating virtual reality and other digital technologies, and ensuring students gain the right skills to find jobs they love. Critical to this is partnerships with industry that ensure the relevance and currency of Torrens University’s curriculum and the employability of its graduates.

In November 2020 Strategic Education Inc (SEI) found Torrens an attractive investment, buying the university and its satellite companies Think Education and the Media Design School. That was a clear vote of confidence in Linda’s success so far and her vision for the future. She is today CEO of SEI ANZ.

The past two years have seen Torrens come of age. From its early beginnings with 164 students in 2014, today, Torrens now has students studying worldwide offshore online. Torrens has received multiple accolades for its innovation culture. Since the pandemic started, Torrens has engaged with over 270,000 people through free short courses and digital community engagement, demonstrating its impact as an innovative B Corporation. Demonstrating Linda’s conviction that public good can be created with private money, Torrens awarded $89 million in scholarships in 2020 and 2021 alone to support students and ensure access to high-quality education. The contribution to the Australian economy through international students and staff employment between 2015 and 2020 was $2.6 billion.

Torrens’ values are: Be good, be creative and bold, be global, be well, and begin and end with people. These values reflect Linda’s personal ethos. Linda, who hails from a tiny Scottish town and was the first in her family to go to university, has been instrumental to the impressive financial and societal results that Torrens has achieved.