The University of Canberra will increase students from 14,000 to 21,000 by 2018 with the help of $26 million in Commonwealth funding signed off on Tuesday.
The plan to increase enrolments by nearly 50 per cent over the next six years is one of a number of reforms, including broadening student intake through improved pathways through the University of Canberra College and additional learning support for students who might not otherwise get a place.
UC will also redesign its curriculum, and invest in flexible learning technologies and collaborations and partnerships with other tertiary institutions – most notably with Holmesglen TAFE in Melbourne to create the University of Canberra Melbourne, which will take enrolments from next year.
Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans visited the campus to sign off on the $26 million in Structural Adjustment Funding, approved last year in the lead-up to a merger between UC and the Canberra Institute of Technology but put on hold when the CIT resisted the merger.
UC reapplied and was approved the funding for strategic growth outside Canberra – although Professor Parker said he was still interested in pursuing closer links with CIT. It was also the first official duty for ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher since she took over responsibilities for Higher Education and Regional Development earlier this month.
She welcomed the injection of funding, saying ”we recognise the importance of education to the ACT economy as the largest non-government export and its importance to our city as a whole”.
Professor Parker said the UC was in ”the strongest position in its history with more students, more academics and better facilities than we have ever had. Our financial position is sound and our reputation is growing. This Commonwealth investment will help the University of Canberra continue to flourish in an increasingly competitive environment.”
Professor Parker believed the UC’s future success would depend on eliminating ”the barriers of distance, time and location (to) offer students even more choice and flexibility to further cement our role as Australia’s Capital University”.
Biggest growth will come through UC College, which takes students in a range of preparatory courses for the university and is expected to grow from 675 students this year to 2800 within six years. The funding includes new headquarters on campus to accommodate this growth.
UC announced a program to help Indigenous high school students realise their academic potential through a partnership with the Aurora Project, which will include academic enrichment camps for students from across NSW, Victoria and Western Australia, and a scholarship program including the prominent Charlie Perkins Trust and Roberta Sykes scholarships to Oxford and Cambridge.
UC indigenous alumni Fiona Peterson – who graduated last year with a Bachelor of Management – was one of 18 students supported by Aurora and the UC last month to travel to Harvard, New York University, Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge to explore study options. Ms Peterson is considering an MBA at one of their business schools.
Deputy Chancellor Tom Calma said: ”As both the Deputy Chancellor of the University of Canberra and trustee of the Charlie Perkins Trust, I am delighted the Commonwealth has supported this great initiative of the Aurora Project and the University of Canberra.
”The academic enrichment project is an exciting initiative which will build the aspirations of our young indigenous high school students to be all that they can be, ensuring they finish high school with the option of further study at university. In most cases, that’s an option their parents never had, and it will open up a world of possibility for the next generation.”
The UC has doubled its number of indigenous students from 62 in 2008 to 128.