Meeting the challenges facing the higher education sector was the main theme for members of the University of New England Council when they took part in the Chancellor’s Rural Retreat in Bundarra last Sunday. They met to renew the University’s focus in preparing for the post-2012 demand-driven higher education climate.
The Chancellor of UNE, Dr Richard Torbay, opened the day by addressing the advantages that UNE held in delivering outstanding tertiary education in a regional setting, saying that the University was positioned well to take the lead in implementing the Federal Government’s regional education agenda.
“UNE is well served by maintaining our focus on regional issues such as education as part of a long-term strategic vision,” Dr Torbay said. “Now is the time to take a look at the regional policy opportunities available to us and position UNE as a key contributor to the regional agenda.”
The retreat took shape around strategic issues in the Australian higher education sector highlighted by Dr Gavin Moodie, Principal Policy Analyst at RMIT, who spoke on the trends, risks and opportunities.
“UNE is distinctive among Australian universities in several ways – which means that it cannot rely on applying models developed elsewhere in Australia,” Dr Moodie said. “This makes UNE’s future both challenging and more interesting.
“UNE is a small, regional university, and so would benefit from promoting its existing standards of excellence in research and tailoring its course offerings to a specialised disciplinary focus.”
Dr Moodie’s comments tied in with the developing vision for the University led by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, under his Project 2012 policy. Professor Barber spoke on the University’s need to sharpen its focus on teaching, research and academia, and not limit opportunities to UNE’s traditional approaches.
“UNE can lead the way into the demand-driven higher education future through our commitment to research excellence, our residential college system, and our quality of online teaching,” Professor Barber said. “We can continue to expand these strengths by broadening our scope when developing links with businesses and the community.
“We have a technological advantage in our proximity to the National Broadband Network roll-out, which will keep us on top of developing our distance education provision and capacity to generate cutting-edge research.”
Dr Torbay said that UNE was already far advanced in its analysis of future trends in higher education, and was getting on with delivering outcomes – such as the recent formalising of Memoranda of Understanding with the University of Sydney, the University of Western Sydney, and NSW TAFE.
THE PHOTOGRAPH of Dr Gavin Moodie (left) and Dr Richard Torbay displayed here was taken after Dr Moodie, a UNE graduate, delivered the Occasional Address at a UNE graduation ceremony earlier this month. The photograph expands to include Professor Jim Barber.