A proposal for a new higher education precinct for up to 10,000 students on the eastern side of the city has been unveiled by the ACT Government and the University of NSW Canberra.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and the Rector of UNSW Canberra, Professor Michael Frater, announced that a Memorandum of Understanding would be developed during the remainder of 2017 to guide talks about what the Chief Minister called a significant investment by UNSW Canberra to develop the proposed precinct on land opposite the Canberra Institute of Technology in Reid that is currently used for car parking.
Mr Barr said talks had opened six months ago when UNSW Canberra expressed an interest in expanding its role in the city and the proposed new campus would include student accommodation, research and teaching facilities, alongside the CIT Reid campus.
Mr Barr said the 10-12 hectare site, which had sat undeveloped for 20 years, would be a practical example of city renewal, with development arrangements similar to that which saw the expansion of the ANU campus in City West.
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While details of the proposal were still to be worked out, Mr Barr said the ANU process involved varying parcels of land being sold to the ANU for different lease purposes including education, mixed use and commercial.
“We’ll see different lease purposes applied to different elements of available land and that will be charged accordingly,” he said.
Professor Frater said that for UNSW in its 50th year in Canberra it was important to look to the future and grow its contribution to the capital.
He said UNSW was looking to develop research, innovation, teaching and student accommodation on a new site to complement and extend the work already being done at the Australian Defence Force Academy.
Professor Frater could not at this stage provide details on courses but said UNSW hoped to expand on areas such as space and cyber security and bring new activities to Canberra that would benefit the community and the economy.
“The idea of this campus is to target markets other than Defence and areas underserviced in the higher education sector,” he said.
He said it could take three years to go through the planning processes, feasibility studies and design work.
Mr Barr said the Government would finalise the MoU with UNSW Canberra by the end of 2017, with more specific details about the project released during 2018.
The Chief Minister said the Government was fundamentally committed to growing the higher education sector as fast as possible to diversify the capital’s economy.
“The recent addition of UNSW Canberra engineering degrees to courses available in Canberra filled a gap in our higher education offerings and this further expansion is an opportunity to do more of the same – taking higher education in the city to the next level,” he said.
He said the CIT campus modernisation program also provided opportunities to redevelop parts of the existing site as CIT consolidated and improved its facilities.
“The longer term vision is to link the University of Canberra, ANU, CIT and UNSW Canberra with stage 3 of light rail, the east-west corridor, and this fits perfectly into that longer term strategy,” Mr Barr said.
He said the Government wanted to see 20,000 more residents living in the city over the next 10 years and it would be releasing land to ensure the variety of economic activity the city needed.
“Partnering with a world class university to deliver a world-class education precinct on Constitution Avenue that we’ve recently invested $50 million in to improve is a very good practical example of our policies in action,” he said.
Mr Barr said higher education injected $2.7 billion a year into the ACT economy and was responsible for about 16,000 jobs.
“International education is Canberra’s largest export, with 14,000 international students currently studying here,” he said.
Federal Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh said Canberra’s future lay in being a creative city not just for public policy, but for science, humanities and innovators too.
“UNSW’s decision will add to the research and teaching strength of ANU, ACU and UC, making Canberra the go-to city for a great education,” Dr Leigh said.
The Barr Government’s far-sighted decision will bring more students to the bush capital, and create more jobs for locals. As a professor-turned-politician, I couldn’t be happier.”