The future of higher education rolled out at UNE

Published 05 October 2010

mouThree ground-breaking Memoranda of Understanding were signed today in Armidale aimed at giving more students increased access to higher education.

The University of New England has signed Memoranda of Understanding with the University of Sydney, the University of Western Sydney and TAFE NSW.

UNE’s Chancellor, Dr Richard Torbay, and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, hosted representatives from each of these institutions. They were joined on the UNE campus by the NSW Minister for Education and Training, Verity Firth, and the Federal Member for New England, Tony Windsor, in recognising that these three new partnerships responded directly to the Federal Government’s agenda to boost university participation rates, particularly among low SES groups.

Dr Torbay said that UNE was leading the way in flexible study options for students across the country. “With the MOUs being formalised here today, UNE and our partners are opening the door to students everywhere to achieve their career ambitions and participate in higher education,” he said. “This is a milestone on the road to a fairer, brighter Australia.”

The University of Sydney’s Chancellor, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, and Vice-Chancellor, Dr Michael Spence, co-signed the Memorandum of Understanding which will extend UNE’s Early Entry (Principal’s Recommendation) Scheme to the University of Sydney. Under the agreement, The University of Sydney will offer selected students from low SES backgrounds a place at that University, subject to satisfactory completion of the first year at UNE.

“This agreement provides an incentive and an option for students from modest circumstances who want to study at the University of Sydney but who may not have excelled in the Australian Tertiary Admission Rank,” Professor Bashir said.

Dr Spence explained that the Agreement would promote participation, social inclusion, and a collaborative research framework that would bring benefits to both institutions.

The NSW Minister for Education and Training, Verity Firth, said the partnerships offered exciting pathways to higher learning. “Improving social inclusion and increased participation in higher education, especially for those students from low socio-economic backgrounds, is a priority for the NSW Government,” she said. “Today’s announcement is a significant step towards this.”

“UNE and TAFE NSW have a long history of collaborations – but this MOU will enhance the partnership and provide students with the opportunity to obtain both vocational and tertiary qualifications,” Ms Firth said. “This agreement between UNE and TAFE NSW makes UNE the first dual-sector university in the State.

Distance education and technology-sharing is a key feature of a third kind of partnership agreement between UNE and the University of Western Sydney (UWS). Under this MOU, UNE will effectively function as UWS’s distance provider as students from UWS will be able to undertake online units from UNE and count them toward their degrees from UWS.

Streaming in from the UWS Parramatta campus, the UWS Chancellor, Mr John Phillips, said the Bradley Review had ushered in a new era of collaboration across the nation’s universities.

“The University of Western Sydney is delighted to collaborate with UNE, a leader in distance education,” said the Vice-Chancellor of UWS, Professor Janice Reid. “This agreement will provide even greater opportunities to open up access to higher education by expanding our course offerings beyond traditional classroom walls.”

Professor Barber agreed that partnerships like these would promote participation and offer a much greater degree of flexibility for students to achieve their goals in life – whatever their circumstances or status in life. The partnerships would also reaffirm UNE’s position as a leader and innovator in tertiary education.

“While each agreement is unique, collectively they promote a more inclusive, flexible and responsive higher education environment: one where universities serve the national interest through collaboration rather than dog-eat-dog competition,” he said. “At the end of the day, education is about students, not universities, so the future should belong to those universities that are prepared to innovate in the interests of students.”

THE PHOTOGRAPH displayed here shows (from left) Professor Jim Barber, Dr Richard Torbay, Her Excellency Professor Marie Bashir, and the Hon. Verity Firth MP at today’s MOU signing. It expands to include the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sydney, Dr Michael Spence, and the Deputy Director General of TAFE and Community Education, Ms Pam Christie.