26 February 2016
Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the launch of our 20th Anniversary Year. It is a great pleasure to see so many of you here today to help us celebrate this important milestone.
Twenty years is a significant landmark in our institution’s history. In these first two decades, USC has achieved so much and transformed so many lives. But at its heart, it’s the people who make this possible. You are those people, and today I would like to personally thank each and every one of you for your contribution to our University’s success.
I am always struck by the dedication and loyalty of the staff at this University. As Vice-Chancellor and President, it is my pleasure to lead a team of such committed professionals. So once again, I must thank you all. Those who have served twenty years and all those still working on it (myself included).
As we celebrate, I ask you to pause and reflect on all that we have achieved, and look forward to all that is ahead. The next twenty years will see our institution double, perhaps triple, in size. And as our geographic footprint expands, so will our ability to grow and prosper. Our vision is to see the University of the Sunshine Coast rise higher and shine even brighter!
When I arrived at USC at the start of 2005 I felt a little cheated that I’d missed the excitement of the establishment of the boggy cane field, the headworks battle with Maroochy Council, the campaign for University status, the commencement of the iconic buildings and community facilities, the Vice-Chancellor who knew every member of staff by name.
Those days were clearly not for the feint-hearted, but everyone who had been part of it exuded pride in what had been achieved. But as I became part of USC I realised that the excitement, the challenge, the desire to do new and great things was endemic. It had always been there and it continued, and continues.
Our University is entrepreneurial. It’s had to be. Despite the spectacular growth, we are still the smallest public university on the block, but USC hasn’t been afraid to take risks and back itself. As I think I say in the 20/20 book Visions to be launched this evening, I admire Emeritus Professor Paul Thomas’ resolve and bravery in taking the decisions he made. And they all paid off. Not just because of Paul’s leadership, but because our staff and our community got behind the cause and ensured success.
As we move into the next phase of development with the latest strategic plan that takes us through to 2020 there is a new set of challenges and adventures into territory we haven’t visited before.
From one small campus in 1996 to eight study locations in 2016, we have witnessed the power of a university to transform the educational aspirations, economy and culture of our region. Our most recent acquisition is USC Fraser Coast campus established by University of Southern Queensland back in 1987. Please join me in welcoming our Fraser Coast colleagues to the fold. We look forward to working with you all, and foresee a great ‘long-distance’ relationship.
Looking forward, the next challenge will be USC Moreton Bay. Winning this tender was a major coup for the University. Many other institutions tried and failed. Our reputation for quality teaching, face-to-face learning, and listening to and acting upon the community’s needs, was crucial in our success. The Moreton Bay community want this same service for their aspiring professionals. And USC will deliver. We intend to establish a new campus at Petrie that will grow to more than 10,000 students by 2030. So, watch this space.
The new partnerships with the Australian Technical & Management College (ATMC) will see USC degrees offered in Melbourne this year and a bit later in Sydney as well as at SouthBank. And then there is SouthBank itself. The story there has similarities to some of Paul’s challenges
We went to SouthBank at the invitation of the then South Brisbane Institute of Technology. It didn’t go that well, but as we analysed the environment we came up with the right model and the faculties, especially the Faculty of Arts and Business and dug in for the long haul. With a change of governance at TAFE, TAFE Queensland decided they didn’t want us at SouthBank anymore. It would probably have been easiest to just cut our losses and leave but we didn’t. There was a team of people, committed to making this work for USC, who refused to surrender.
We now have our own shop front in the prime location for TAFE Brisbane in Ernest Street and our own teaching premises just down the road at the corner of Merivale and Russell Streets. We are secure with potential to expand. We’ll start the semester at SouthBank with over 300 students in that area and half of them will be the international students that drew us to the Brisbane CBD in the first place. And, as Petrie comes on line it will be a key component of the USC system of inter-connected campuses.
In the next decade (and beyond), we will continue our mission to provide ample opportunities for students of all ages and backgrounds to reach their goals. And at the same time, we will be pushing the boundaries of our innovative teaching and research across a far wider geography. But one thing I have learnt is: you don’t have to be a big sandstone campus to set high standards, have good students and get good results. I want USC to reach elite levels and earn a world-class reputation. And I think everyone deserves a go at a university education, including battlers. Both goals are achievable. It’s just a matter of balance.
USC is now a key player in the educational realm, and we reaffirm our commitment to reconciliation and bridging the gap with our Indigenous brothers and sisters. Since the recent opening of the indoor/outdoor home for Buranga, I think I’ve seen more community on campus in 2015 than in my first ten years here! And a key way of encouraging kids to study here is breaking the ice with families. This seems to be working well. So let’s keep up the good work.
Along with caring for our people, is caring for our land. As an animal lover and former research geographer, I understand the important relationships between people and place. And a study environment is no exception. In operations and development, USC continues to invest wisely in sustainable initiatives including environmental and building design, transport, energy efficiency and water usage. Sustainability is also a key research area, and the focus of a range of courses and programs. And I’m proud to say that being sustainability-focused is an important graduate attribute embedded in all of our programs.
So, all things said, I believe that USC is well-placed to face our third and future decades. With your help, we will continue to pursue our vision. We’re on the path towards a medical school, and future teaching and research partnerships in connection with the Sunshine Coast University Hospital. It’s another game-changer for the Coast, and for USC. No-one knows for sure where the future jobs will be, but if we can recognise them early and be an innovator, the sky’s the limit for our graduates.