It was a privilege to attend the Australian Financial Review’s Higher Education Summit on Tuesday 30 August, and to be part of the panel which discussed if Australia’s higher education system is fit for purpose.
The Summit’s stated aim was to ‘identify and explore bold new ideas in higher education, with a focus on adaptation, resilience and opportunities for institutions to carve out a stronger post-pandemic future”. I remain optimistic that the Australian university sector - and Charles Sturt University in particular - will realise this strong future.
What does ‘fit for purpose’ look like for regional universities like Charles Sturt? I believe there are three crucial planks: Equitable access to courses and facilities for non-metropolitan students; impactful research which is focussed on outcomes for regional Australia, and collaborations with industry and government that help to address the critical skills shortages in our communities.
In these regards, Charles Sturt University is fit for purpose.
In 2021, the University had almost 18,000 students from regional, rural and remote background enrolled across our six regional campuses and online. The more than 10,000 students who graduated last year found full-time employment at a higher rate than any other Australian university – the sixth year in a row Charles Sturt had the nation’s best graduate employment results.
In the last 12 months, the University has established three institutes to spearhead research in areas vital to regional Australia’s future and prosperity: agriculture, water and the environment; regional and rural health; and cyber security and data science. This investment is being targeted towards substantive research in fields as diverse as protecting Australia’s Sandalwoods from extinction to the anxiety felt by First Nations people during the height of the pandemic.
Charles Sturt partnerships with industry leaders and government are delivering significant outcomes for our students and communities. In the last couple of weeks we have worked with partners to expand the ground-breaking Collaborative Teacher’s Aide Pathway program to accelerate the full qualifications of the next wave of teachers, as well as announcing $2 million in scholarships for Engineering students via our partnership with Transgrid.