If the University of Canberra is to become a world-ranked university, we need to improve infrastructure in Belconnen.
I attended a public meeting late last month in which UC Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker explained his 15 year vision for the University of Canberra. I was impressed at the level of interest, with a packed auditorium that was standing-room only.
Bruce is an important education hub, with over 20,000 students attending the University of Canberra, UC Senior Secondary College Lake Ginninderra, Radford College, the Australian Institute of Sport and the Canberra Institute of Technology.
UC has outlined an ambitious program for transforming itself into a world-ranked university that supports a wide range of teaching, research and development programs run by both public and private enterprises. This will reshape the suburb and the Belconnen town centre forever.
As the university expands, better infrastructure and stronger links between the town centre and the university would encourage students, staff, and employees from UC to come to Belconnen and vice versa, invigorating the lakeshore precinct.
This will need investment in improved infrastructure as part of the Belconnen Town Centre Master Plan. For example, my submission to the consultation process suggested a promenade for cyclists and pedestrians from Emu Bank to the College Street entrance for the university, and it seems likely that dual-lane upgrades to the already congested Aikman Drive and College Street will be necessary.
Highlights of the $1 billion plan for UC include:
- An increased focus on whole-of-life education
UC wants primary and secondary schools to be located on campus and to offer strong pathways into university courses. UC already has an arrangement with two schools, UC High School, Kaleen and UC Senior Secondary College, Lake Ginninderra to provide opportunities for Territory teachers’ professional development and engagement with academics of the university. The university expects the University of Canberra College to continue to grow, helping domestic and international students of all ages enter tertiary education, while the University of the Third Age offers courses for Canberra’s growing retiree community.
- A health precinct
This includes the 140 bed sub-acute care UC Public Hospital announced by the ACT Government focusing on providing a more “home-like environment”. The precinct will also house private hospitals, independent living and aged care facilities, specialist clinics and health research facilities.
- Building residences for staff, alumni and members of the public
In addition to the existing 1700 beds on campus, 3000 new “dwellings” will be built for staff, alumni, and the public to live on-campus.
- Developing an Innovation Park
This includes biomedicine, biotechnology, sports technology, materials fabrication and IT solutions. The goal of this R&D facility is for “national and global organisations [to] compete for space on campus to be close to research academics and students”.
The university aims to embrace new and emerging kinds of employment and help build the next generation of jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
Professor Stephen Parker explained at the meeting that as a comparatively young university, UC does not have an additional income stream. However, it does have a large allotment of land, so by building commercial and residential facilities onsite it can unlock funds to invest back into the university and its students with the goal of achieving a world ranking by 2018.
I think Professor Parker has an exciting vision for UC that will bring substantial changes both to Belconnen and Canberra. What do you think about his plans?
Photo credit: University of Canberra