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The education road to the regions: graduation address at Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW.



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Graduation Address at Southern Cross University, Lismore NSW

Thursday 24 April 2003

“The Education Road to the Regions”

by

Professor Deryck M Schreuder

President Australian Vice-Chancellor’s Committee

and

Vice-Chancellor and President of The University of Western Australia

Please check against delivery

Chancellor Dowd and Council Members

Vice Chancellor and friend, Professor John Rickard

Distinguished Community Guests

..... and especially - Graduands, your families and supporters.

Well Done! Warmest congratulations to all today’s graduands on your

achievements. Enjoy this special moment. All of you have a special

story to tell in achieving your degree or diploma. You have taken a

crucial step in shaping your life ahead by taking the education road. It is

the pathway to a positive future.

Not only will graduates, on average, earn 20 to 50% more than non-

graduates over a lifetime, they have the potential to lives of particular

fulfillment. A recent survey even suggested graduates being more

sexually active!

I am very pleased to be with you in Lismore and to speak as current

President of the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.

Vice Chancellors are said to be the only people who can talk in other

people’s sleep... so not only is this a brief Address, but it contains no

advice. Looking at the state of the world at the moment I do not think my

generation dare to give advice to yours.

But I did want to share with you my passion for university education.

Please just join me on the road to higher education, and the road to

personal fulfillment.

Our graduates are, in so many ways, the future of our country. Some

15% of Australians now have a university qualification - with nearly 1

million bachelor degrees awarded since 1991, 375,000 post-graduate

masters degrees by course-work, and 35,000 higher degrees by research

(mainly doctorates). Our graduates and our staff are central to the

research and innovation developments in our universities: we do 84% of

the nation’s research and 75% of all R & D is university linked. We are

also creating an overseas community of graduates: nearly 150,000

students annually come to Australia for their education or take part in

transnational programs delivered abroad. Educational services bring

$4.2 Billion annually to Australia, as our 8th largest export. And we make

priceless international friendships through our overseas graduates.

In short: we are no longer just the Lucky Country. We are becoming the

educated nation, and our university sector is really now the Innovation

Sector.

These developments are, in my view, every bit as important as the micro

reforms that have transformed our economy. And our graduates

symbolise the fact that the revolution in skills, knowledge and intellectual

property will make a prosperous and secure future for our country in a

new century of globalisation, competition and opportunity. In terms of

population, capital assets and exports, we are small players in the world

economy. Yet when it comes to Innovation and value-adding, then we

punch well above our national weight. The combination of great natural

and intellectual resources could be the envy of the world. This could be

our great century.

*

The current national review of higher education, initiated by Minister

Nelson, has indeed focussed our attention on the centrality of universities

in building modern societies. As the great American university President

Frank Rhodes (of Cornell) has put it, universities are not just about

serving their students, they are about The Creation of the Future (Cornell

University Press: Ithaca. 2001)

In that spirit, the Australian Vice-Chancellors (very much including your

Vice-Chancellor, Professor John Rickard) have put a 4-fold challenge to

our parliament, to business and the community.

By 2020, we have argued that our nation should have created one of the

top 5 higher education systems in the world through

• investing 2% of our GDP in universities and their research

(currently the figure is about 1.4%).

• ensuring that 60% participation rates in higher education are

achieved (we are currently at 45%, with some 20,000 qualified

students annually denied access to higher education).

• funding at least one world-class research centre in each major

discipline of research allocated competitively playing from its

strength, USC would surely be part of that allocation), and

• finally, giving the right support in policies and finance to see our

educational system become one of our top 3 service exports.

The Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee has backed these targets

with a comprehensive and compelling policy document - Forward from

the Crossroads - which has at its heart the concept of a system of diverse

and excellent universities each working to their own missions, with

funding linked to fitness for purpose.

We reject a re-invented binary divide (of separate teaching and research

universities) and narrow specialisation. Equally, we do not want diversity

to mean an unequal class system of universities.

Rather - we strongly believe that our socially complex and regionally

diverse nation requires a diversity of universities, each working closely to

their missions and communities.

We currently have 38 universities within the AVCC - educating some

650,00 students (plus 140,000 overseas students) at campuses across

every major state, city and region. And it is inconceivable now to

imagine an Australia without this network of skilling and intellectual

powerhouses.

Like the spread of roads, railways and electricity in earlier eras of our

history, the growth of university foundations is now a vital agency of

transformation in our great wide land.

*

The Regional Universities of Australia are among our great

achievements: every bit as significant as, say, the Snowy Mountain

Scheme, or the creation of Qantas.

Just look at the data.

The Government now recognises 9 of our universities as having a special

“Regional” status, and it is almost a ‘sector’ within itself. Consider:

STUDENTS

• Regional universities now educate 123,472 students, being 16% of

all those enrolled.

• That includes 17% of all overseas students.

• A striking 23% of all postgraduate candidates.

STAFF

• 11% of all staff (7,751), excluding casuals.

• being divided 10% academic (2,946) and 12% general (4,805).

Funds

• Total operating funding of $1.025 Billion, largely spent in each

region.

• including $406 million in Commonwealth funding, HECS

contributions of $224.7 million.

Research

• Regional universities win some $20 million in national competitive

grants,

• plus $21.8 million in special research assistance (to which we

would need to add considerable industrial, commercial and contract

research dollars).

Taken together, here are ‘hubs’ of exceptional value and meaning for our

society, and especially for their immediate communities. If we take the

usual economic multiplier of about 2/3, for example, we can extrapolate

an extraordinary impact, in jobs and service purchases on the regional

environment. But even this is small in terms of the critical impact on

‘technology transfer’, R & D, and professional provision. And then there

is the even broader cultural impact on school retention-rates and

educational aspirations, social cohesion and enrichment of community

life. At a time when rural and regional services are in decline and retreat,

Regional Universities both bring the world to their communities and

ensure the vibrant viability of those communities themselves.

Your own new university is a microcosm of all these good things. With

over 11,000 students (with some 40% externally involved across your

coastal campus) and with some 1,500 international students from 40

countries, you make an exceptional contribution to this growing Region at

many levels. Extrapolating from your operating funds alone suggests you

put over $250 million annually into the region before we even confront

the ‘soft’ data of skills and social services.

*

Looking nationally and beyond the formally designated Regional

institutions, other Australian universities are also involved in regional

provision. In my own State of Western Australia - constituting 30% of

our land mass and providing 27% of Australian GDP from some 10% of

our national population - all the universities are in Perth. Most students

have to travel to the urban metropolis: but there is also now a network of

regional campuses as part of our outreach. Albany, Geraldton,

Kalgoorlie, Broome, Margaret River and Rockingham, all have

educational programs, research initiatives and community engagements

on a considerable scale, and all sponsored by the Perth-based universities

in easy collaboration. Here is another model of a State-system of regional

provision which is crucial for rural and remote communities.

We need to re-write the Australian bush legend around education.1

*

So, you see why we should celebrate your graduations as the great

symbol of this quiet revolution in both the expansion of education and in

the shaping and securing of our regions.

1

The road to Lismore, and from Lismore out to your own distributed

campuses and delivery centres, is an education road that matters to our

society and to each of us individually.

In a changing economy and work place, a “life of earning” increasingly

means a “life of learning”. The sociologists tell us that we shall change

jobs between five and ten times in our careers, and that flexible skills and

lateral thinking will be the basis of successful working lives. We may

attend university several times over a life of changing opportunities and

work. skills.

As a community we have indeed now embraced that life-long learning

concept, with about half of all students in the universities being defined as

‘mature age’. And with the demand for university ‘places’ - both

undergraduate and postgraduate - rising each year. (In 2003 demand rose

over 20% and some 20,000 qualified Australians did not get a university

place at all.)

Indeed, as individuals and citizens we also appear to have grasped the

deepest meaning of a good education - that it helps us to know ourselves,

to form our interests, values, beliefs and view of the world.

*

I do not need to give USC graduates advice: but I do want to conclude by

sharing my own sense of how education has made a life - my life. I came

from a small isolated bush mining town in Africa. My earliest schools

were mission schools of the one room variety. Later, the classroom was a

window-less structure under a tin roof. And, later again, an ill-equipped

high school, with red dust for playing fields. But, somehow, I also got on

the education road, thanks to parents and special teachers... culminating

in a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford.

But it has been an extraordinary road without end, for there is no end to

learning.

That is the most precious thing I got from my early, rural education.

Knowledge excited and transformed me; pointed me to a career; and,

more still, made me an inquisitive human being who has never lost a

sense of marvel of what science and the humanities can open in

understanding the natural and social world about us.

Enjoy that journey: and may it also be for you that journey towards both

skills and self-knowledge and a life of happy fulfillment.

Data:

Regional universities as a proportion of all universities

UNE, USQ, CQU, NTU, JCU, Ballarat, CSU, USC, SCU

Funds

Operating purposes (excluding

HECS ) $382,803,000 11%

Special research assistance $21,836,000 5% 24% = $606m

HECS $224,733,00 13%

Other Commonwealth

Government Grants $24,989,000 7% 31% = $630m

Total operating revenue $1,025,707,000 10%

Students

Domestic Students 99024 15%

Overseas Students 24448 17%

Undergraduate students 92798 16%

Postgraduate non HDR 23135 16%

HDR students 2,760 7%

TOTAL 123472 16%

NCG

National competitive grants $19,575,994 4%

STAFF

Academic Staff - FTE 2946 10%

General Staff - FTE 4805 12%

All (excludes casuals) 7751 11%

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