|With fellow Vice-Chancellors, I was involved in the ongoing discussions around options for the return of international students and how their re-engagement with their peers and in-country study experience might be re-engineered. The reported levels of interest in what I have termed the ‘international ark’, by all parties in a managed early return that includes quarantine arrangements, is high and the support from wider industry is also a very positive part of the discussions.
The progress of our discussions with industry and business partners around the proposed expansion of Tamworth also featured in my Sydney engagements. We have hosted a number of thematic workshops across the last few months which have brought to the surface opportunities for their engagement with the co-creation of curriculum and the development of placebased education across a range of options. The consultants are assisting us with developing an updated business case so that we can be confident of our approach and make informed representation to the appropriate authorities for support. Plans of this type require a range of different investment approaches, from capital investment for new infrastructures to funding support for recruitment and operation developments. UNE must be quite clear that we can add value across the whole platform and utilise the processes we are developing to also add value to our operations in Armidale and Sydney.
My time in Sydney was also linked to the recent development by UNE of a programme for young entrepreneurs in collaboration with the UNE Smart Region Incubator (SRI) and NBN Co. This new initiative is an important part of our contributions to the regional economy and the support UNE is providing through the ‘learning region’ concept to assist in driving the innovation levers for New England and the wider communities of NSW. Discussions with various agencies about how this type of effort might be developed further as part of our contribution to a suite of micro-credentials to energise interest in educational offerings across those who might not be comfortable with the conventional entry to higher education.
The topic of supporting Higher Education as part of the leverage for economic recovery and growth was also the dominant topic of conversation with various representative of NSW government and related agencies. The effort being expended to consider the type of collaborative initiatives which need to be developed is not insignificant and requires us all to be forward looking and creative. After months focusing almost exclusively on COVID-19 response management, the shift in horizons is notable. UNE is preparing for the next phase of our emergency management plans, with a major move back to our campuses, and regeneration a key focus. UNE’s future is dependent not only on managing the operational challenges created by the pandemic but also funding revenue models with a strong reciprocal dimension to align with our ‘Town with Gown’ mantra.
My Sydney adventure concluded with a long walk with the team from UNE Sydney as we explored possible property options to address the need created by a compulsory purchase notice on part of our existing provision as the city developments progress. One is struck by the scale of the capital infrastructure developments being undertaken across Parramatta and the opportunities which are likely to emerge for UNE as the new transport, cultural and sports aligned facilities come on stream. The visit reinforced my views that we need to be brave and bold in developing our new Sydney strategy, to support our international partnership ambitions and in terms of our commitment to support this through education and engagement. All very exciting!