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Wednesday, 16 February 2005
Page: 153

Mr SLIPPER (9:49 AM) —With the academic year about to resume for 2005 and many school leavers ready to take their first steps into a university lecture hall or tutorial room, I rise today to bring to the attention of this place the admirable, essential and innovative work of the major tertiary institution located in my electorate of Fisher, the University of the Sunshine Coast. This public university is located approximately 100 kilometres north of Brisbane and occupies 100 hectares of the most beautiful Sunshine Coast region at Sippy Downs, just a stone's throw away from the world famous beaches of Maroochydore, Mooloolaba, Kawana, Caloundra and all points in between.

The University of the Sunshine Coast was founded as the Sunshine Coast University College in 1994 and opened in 1996. After many years of hard work and lobbying by the university founders and through the significant efforts of both my colleague the member for Fairfax and me, the Sunshine Coast University College was granted full university status in 1999 and changed its name to the University of the Sunshine Coast. This university now boasts three world-class faculties—the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, the Faculty of Business and the Faculty of Science—altogether offering 32 undergraduate, 23 postgraduate and 13 external degree programs. Student enrolments have steadily grown since the university's inception and last year reached a total of 3,862, the largest contingents coming from local and regional populations and from overseas.

I am particularly pleased to note that the University of the Sunshine Coast has been allocated 1,080 new places out of a total of 6,500 new places allocated to the whole of Queensland between now and 2008, and I want to commend the Minister for Education, Science and Training for his support. Indeed, 395 new places have been made available for this academic year. This is great news for the university and recognises the emerging role the university is taking in regional tertiary education and development. The breadth of disciplines for the new places is also very important. It is also important to recognise that the university is a vital asset not only to the academic and tertiary institution community of Australia but, more importantly, to the people of the south-east Queensland region. Forty-four per cent of the students who attend the university come from low socioeconomic backgrounds, and a huge 40 per cent of the students are the first in their family to attend university. These statistics are not limited to just the school-leaver cohort, as the average age of students is approximately 25 years.

The university's stated mission is to be the `major catalyst for the innovative and sustainable economic, cultural and educational advancement of the region through the pursuit of international standards in teaching and research'. I would like to commend the university on its work and the vice-chancellor, Professor Thomas, on his outstanding leadership and also the Australian government on the continuing support it gives to this vital institution. I am particularly pleased this year to employ in my office a local graduate of the university, Daniel Adams. He is typical of the students who are emerging from this institution. I am sure the University of the Sunshine Coast will go from strength to strength.