Since it was established, the University of New England has undertaken fundamental and applied research in many disciplines. Its scholars and scientists have established international reputations through their contributions in areas including rural science, agricultural economics, geology, educational administration, linguistics, archaeology. Collaborative research with other institutions, such as the CSIRO, has led to many important projects including participation in Cooperative Research Centres. It is through its research activities that the University is able to assist in the economic, social and cultural advancement of Australia and in the advanced training of undergraduate and postgraduate students.
The University seeks to serve regional, national and international communities through the progressive pursuit of excellence in scholarship, research and teaching. In committing itself to this mission, the University of New England uncompromisingly endeavours to build on its strengths and gladly accepts its responsibility to serve the educational, cultural, intellectual and social needs of regional/rural Australia in general, and the New England region in particular.
— national and international
Mutually beneficial relationships with other educational institutions – both in Australia and overseas – are a vital part of UNE's vision for the future, and the number of such relationships has grown steadily since the beginning of the new millennium. By the time Ingrid Moses left UNE at the beginning of 2006 the University had extended its international reach, forming partnerships with universities in countries including China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan and Vietnam.
International partnerships have continued to grow. Such links with China, for example, now include advanced standing and cooperation agreements with Chinese educational institutions, enabling many students from those institutions to gain UNE degrees by completing their study programs in Armidale.
Other relationships with institutions around the world include Memoranda of Understanding for academic exchange, joint research, resource sharing, and – for students –study abroad and exchange agreements.
As a leader in foreign language teaching, UNE has developed an innovative way of making its language courses available to students at universities that don't offer courses in those languages. The widely admired 'UNE Blended Model' has enabled students at a number of Australian universities to include UNE courses in languages such as French, German, Italian, Chinese and Indonesian in their degree programs. The 'UNE Blended Model' combines distance education (much of it online) delivered from the UNE campus in Armidale with face-to-face teaching by local tutors employed by UNE. Since the introduction of its Blended Model in 2005, UNE has provided new opportunities for students to undertake university-level language courses at a time when such courses are particularly vulnerable.
In the teaching of Indonesian, UNE is one of four Australian universities constituting the Regional Universities Indonesian Language Initiative (RUILI). Established in 2007 with a grant from the Australian Government, RUILI enables these universities to develop and deliver Indonesian language programs based on common curricula, and to draw on the special expertise of lecturers from throughout the consortium in the development of advanced units. A partnership with the University of Mataram on the Indonesian island of Lombok is providing in-country language courses for students from all four of the Australian universities. International partnerships enable UNE students of other languages, too, to study abroad.
Inventing the future
All these extensions of UNE's horizons have been facilitated by the University's adoption of new communication technologies, enabling it to maintain and enhance its position as a leader in distance education. And UNE's readiness to embrace innovation in the delivery of its teaching programs has continued to open new opportunities – such as the introduction in July 2013 of open online courseware that, when supported by fee-for-service options such as tutorials and examinations, can offer advanced standing towards a UNE degree.
The flagship for many of these teaching innovations is UNE's first Future Campus, officially opened by the Hon. John Watkins in April 2013 on the day that his election as UNE Chancellor was announced. Located in the centre of Parramatta, the Future Campus uses the latest teleconferencing technology to enable students in western Sydney to participate fully in lectures, tutorials and study groups conducted at UNE's Armidale campus or at other locations around the world. More UNE Future Campuses are planned for the future, beginning with one to be opened in Tamworth in 2014.
Innovations in medical education
One of the most important developments of the new millennium has been the establishment of UNE's partnership with the University of Newcastle and local health networks known as the Joint Medical Program (JMP). The first partnership of its kind in Australia, it delivers the same five-year Bachelor of Medicine degree program across the two university campuses. Established with a Commonwealth Government grant in 2006, the JMP was designed to increase the number of medical graduates with experience in – and aspirations towards – rural practice. UNE's newly-established School of Rural Medicine took in its first cohort of undergraduate medical students at the beginning of 2008.
Subsequent to the introduction of the medical program, the University introduced new degree programs in social work, pharmacy, and exercise and sports science. These, together with its well-established and highly regarded nursing program, contribute to UNE's standing as a major, regionally based centre of medical and allied health education.
The School of Rural Medicine, like the rest of the University, has enthusiastically pursued the use of innovative technologies in its teaching. An international partnership with the School of Medicine at the University of California, Irvine, is enabling UNE to be an Australian pioneer in the use of new communication and diagnostic technologies in medical education. A central feature of this partnership is the use of high-speed broadband to conduct joint classes and medical simulations, and to share expertise and facilities – despite a geographical separation of 11,000 kilometres.
Throughout the years, the University has maintained its commitment to the support of rural industries. The Animal Genetics and Breeding Unit (AGBU), established on campus in 1976 as a partnership between UNE and the NSW Department of Primary Industries, has developed an excellent international reputation for its work in the genetic improvement of livestock. Among its many achievements has been the development of BREEDPLAN, an international genetic evaluation system for beef cattle breeding. Marketed by the UNE-based Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI), BREEDPLAN has been implemented as the national beef recording scheme in Australia, New Zealand, Namibia, Thailand and the Philippines, and its use is increasing in the United States, Canada, the UK, Hungary, South America and South Africa.
ABRI, established in 1970, has become the world leader in livestock information systems, and now provides services to about 80,000 farm businesses in 20 countries.
With its long-established reputation for teaching and research in rural science, UNE has been the headquarters of a number of national Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) serving rural industries since the establishment of the Australian Government's CRC Program in 1990. UNE is currently the headquarters of the Poultry CRC and the CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation, and is a partner or participant in other CRCs.
UNE has transformed 'Kirby-Newholme', a 2,900 ha commercial farm located 10 km north west of the campus, into a SMART Farm (Sustainable Manageable Accessible Rural Technologies Farm). Kirby-Newholme is part of the university's Armidale commercial farms. The SMART Farm showcases the latest technologies aimed at improving productivity, environmental sustainability, safety, workflow and social/business support networks on Australian farms.
Such opportunities to capitalise on its well-established excellence in rural science, together with the rapid development of its involvement in rural medicine and allied health, are enabling UNE to enhance its service to regional communities while engaging in research and teaching innovations of national – and international – significance.
The 'living-and-learning' experience
UNE regards its unique residential college system as one of its greatest assets, and will maintain its focus on providing the "five-star" living-and-learning experience that has always set it apart. It has begun a major redevelopment of its college system – including the building of a new 220-bed college aimed at expanding the range and enhancing the quality of residential options while continuing to foster the collegiate culture for which the University is renowned. Through its employment of ever-more-sophisticated communication technologies, it aims to bring something of that collegiate spirit to its growing community of students all over the world.