The Commonwealth Government has strongly endorsed the University of New England’s future direction, awarding it $36.6 million in the latest round of the Structural Adjustment Fund (SAF).
The funding, over three years, is aimed at assisting universities make the transition to the new student-demand-driven system to be introduced in 2012.
UNE’s Chancellor, Richard Torbay, welcomed the funding saying that it demonstrated the confidence the Commonwealth Government had in the strategic direction of the University.
“Our SAF bid was bold, much like the recently released UNE Strategic Plan 2011-2015,” Mr Torbay said.
“We know that there are challenges ahead and we are prepared to take risks and work hard to rise to them,” he continued. “This funding shows that the Commonwealth Government supports our strategic vision, and now we need to get on with the job of making it happen.”
Two key projects to be progressed under this funding are:
- The establishment of a Future Campus.
- The redevelopment of UNE courseware for online delivery.
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Jim Barber, said that UNE had a bold vision of opening Future Campuses in both metropolitan and regional settings to give students studying by distance education access to state-of-the-art learning technologies and opportunities to collaborate with peers and instructors.
“The Future Campus concept is one of establishing an imaginative shop front presence in busy shopping precincts, where telepresence conferences can occur between educators – in Armidale and around the world – and students,” Professor Barber said.
The Future Campuses will also utilise online social networking to promote the collaboration among and between staff and students.
The SAF funding will also be used to redevelop UNE courseware for online delivery. “Nearly 80% of UNE students study via Distance Education and so it is important that we can offer them the best online teaching experience possible,” Professor Barber said. “It also supports UNE’s aspiration to be Australia’s highest quality provider of online and blended learning.”
Mr Torbay said a proportion of the SAF funding would also go towards encouraging people from low-SES backgrounds to consider the option of higher education.
“UNE is dedicated to setting the standard for social inclusiveness and access for all to higher education,” he said. “The University is continuing to work on novel partnerships with universities and VET providers targeted at low SES students and the SAF funding will allows us to continue that work.”