Tamworth seminar to look at ‘universities of the future’

Published 28 August 2011

opticfibreA public seminar in Tamworth this evening (Monday 29 August) will recognise the key role that Tamworth has played in the University of New England’s groundbreaking demonstrations of broadband capabilities in education, and explore how new technologies can be used to create a virtual campus presence in Tamworth.

For the past few years, the University’s School of Education has been using broadband connections to enable “virtual supervision” by lecturers on the UNE campus of student teachers gaining professional experience in Tamworth classrooms. “We’ve collaborated on this with Tamworth’s Oxley High School since 2009,” said Associate Professor Stephen Winn, Deputy Head of UNE’s School of Education (Professional Practice and Partnerships) and one of the organisers of this evening’s seminar.

Dr Winn pointed out that – with the involvement of partners including its Tamworth connections – UNE was a pioneer among Australian universities in the development of such uses for broadband communication technology. “In this regard we’ve had very good and strong links with Tamworth in fields such as education, health, medicine, and agricultural science,” he said.

The seminar, at 6 pm in the UNE Tamworth Study Centre (24 Fitzroy Street), will examine opportunities that broadband connection offers to regional communities both generally and in the specific fields of education and local government. Titled “Local Government, the National Broadband and Development Opportunities for Innovative Regional Communities and Universities of the Future,” the seminar will include a joint presentation by the Vice-Chancellor of UNE, Professor Jim Barber, and the Community Relations Adviser of NBN Co, Darren Rudd. Their presentation, titled “Opportunities for a University of the Future in Tamworth?”, will follow a presentation by Ian Tiley, a councillor with Clarence Valley Council, the Chair of Regional Development Australia Northern Rivers, and a member of the Executive Committee of UNE’s Centre for Local Government. Councillor Tiley will discuss how local councils might engage communities and facilitate, develop and upgrade innovative online service delivery to homes and businesses.

The Federal Member for New England, Tony Windsor, will give a short introductory talk titled “What does NBN mean for New England?”

This evening’s seminar is part of a series organised by UNE to highlight current innovations and future possibilities in the University’s engagement with its students, industry partners and research partners using broadband technology. The series has included presentations on the use of such technology in medical education, vision screening, agriculture, and other fields.

The most recent event in the UNE-NBN Seminar Series was on Wednesday 24 August, when Professor Ted Alter from the Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Sociology at Penn State University in the United States spoke about “Rural Broadband Investment in the United States: The Political Economy of Growth”.

“Broadband access is an essential – although not sufficient – condition for local and regional growth and development in rural areas,” Professor Alter said. He argued that broadband roll-out should be planned from the perspective of “investment” rather than that of “cost savings”.

“Investment to ensure rural broadband access requires significant expenditure, but the cost of not incurring this expenditure is the cost of lost opportunities for development,” he said.