- Charles Sturt University is the first university to appear before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19
- Evidence to the Committee focused on the University’s role in supporting economic recovery in regional areas
Charles Sturt University, with Regional Universities Network, appeared before the Senate Select Committee on COVID-19 at a hearing on Tuesday 28 July.
The Committee was established by a resolution of the Senate in April 2020 to inquire into the Australian Government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charles Sturt University is the first university to appear before the inquiry.
The University’s statement and Professor Cavanagh’s testimony emphasised Charles Sturt’s role in delivering education and research across regional Australia.
Charles Sturt is the largest regionally-based university in Australia.
Professor Cavanagh told the Committee, “Charles Sturt University’s commitment to inclusive, sustainable and prosperous development of rural, regional and remote Australia is informed by our research focus and the partnerships we have formed with communities, employers, and the broader regions we serve.
“These partnerships have become more important than ever in the face of the challenge of a global pandemic.”
Professor Cavanagh said the University’s response was driven by a desire to support and protect students, staff and communities, and help them adapt to rapidly-changing circumstances.
“We know some universities struggled with the transition to online provision,” Professor Cavanagh said.
“As one of Australia’s most experienced providers of quality online education, Charles Sturt University was able to transition smoothly to online provision of all courses, as well as instituting work-from-home arrangements for most staff.”
Professor Cavanagh highlighted several Charles Sturt initiatives to help regions and the country respond to the pandemic, including:
- a new financial assistance program for students who incurred additional study-related expenses as a result of the pandemic,
- setting up a fast-turnaround funding program for research projects focused on the impact of COVID-19,
- online consultations and virtual open days for prospective students and their parents,
- manufacturing hand sanitiser for local health districts at the University’s winery in Wagga, and
- the University’s leadership role in regional recovery committees in Bathurst, the Central West, the Mid North Coast, and the Riverina.
Professor Cavanagh told the Committee, “Like other Australian universities, Charles Sturt University is facing a complex financial environment as a consequence of drought, bushfires, COVID-19, a changing and competitive market in higher education, changing professions and student demands, regulatory requirements, and the need to ensure our ongoing sustainability.
“We have consulted with staff, students and communities on how to respond to these challenges.
“The Sustainable Futures program, launched in May, is designed to reshape and reposition the University so we can continue to deliver excellence in teaching, research, and community and industry engagement.“It is a program that will build on our strengths and ensure our future is financially and academically sustainable.”