Official opening of the Learning and Teaching Hub - University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Official opening of the Learning and Teaching Hub

4 Aug 2014

4 August 2014


  • I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we work and live, and recognise their continuing connection to land, water and community. I pay respect to Elders past, present and emerging.
  • Chancellor John M Dobson OAM, Chancellor, University of the Sunshine Coast
  • Senator James McGrath, Senator for Queensland
  • Ms Jodi Schmidt, CEO, TAFE Queensland
  • Members of University Council, Executive and Committees
  • University honoraries, donors, staff and students and community representatives
  • Distinguished guests

Welcome to the official opening of USC’s Learning and Teaching Hub sponsored by the Federal Government’s Structural Adjustment Fund, USC and TAFE Qld. The building positions USC for the new challenges and opportunities posed by the changing higher education environment. Part of a $33mill project it puts us right at the forefront of learning and teaching innovation. So I hope this introduction provides you with an overview of what’s happening in USC’s current environment. It’s an exciting and dynamic and challenging time and we’re fully committed to making the most of it.

I’ve been at USC for 10 years, initially as DVC and then as VC and seeing this project come to fruition is particularly satisfying for me – because it didn’t come easy – I can assure you. We started plotting and scheming for this building about 7 or 8 years ago when the Education Investment Fund or EIF first came on line.

We needed new infrastructure so we could continue to grow. We were also confident nursing would become a trump-card for USC and we had the strategic thinkers like Margaret Barnes to stoke the nursing fires. So our pitch was around nursing and new approaches to educating and training the next generation of health professionals.

The then Dean of FOSHEE, Rod Simpson, and I had a go at the initial EIF rounds and although we got close, we didn’t quite get the money. I remember well a trip our inaugural VC, Paul Thomas, and I made to Brisbane to meet with Phil Clarke the Chair of the EIF Board to discuss what we needed to do to get our project over the line.

It was at this time that I decided we needed a dedicated, expert team whose day-job was to work on these major initiatives – and I turned to my long-suffering colleague Don Maconachie to make it happen through establishing an EPU. The result was a more focussed and professional approach to how things work at the big end of town – and we have been in-business ever since. For the Learning and Teaching Hub, Don brought in David Phillips of Phillips KPA to help us dot the “I/s” and cross the “T/s” and get the story line right. Our sector is very, very competitive and it isn’t for the fainthearted. Our success with this project is something of a right-of-passage for USC.

We have demonstrated that we can compete on the national stage and hold our own – and that’s a great outcome for not just the University but for our region as well.

The opening of this building marks another major milestone in the implementation of what we’ve called the Collaborative Futures Project (CFP). Previous milestones were the opening of USC Gympie in mid-2013, formalisation of collaborative arrangements between USC and the former SCIT and WBIT, and commencement of teaching in this building – in Semester 1 this year for USC, and in Semester 2 for what is now TAFE Qld East Coast.

USC is a different institution now from the one that planned this project in 2010. It needed to be different, given the environment we were heading into. In 2010 we were preparing for the demand driven system, which we anticipated would be good for USC, but only if we made significant changes.

What sort of changes does this new building represent and how do they prepare us for the next decade and beyond? 

CFP had three key aims. These were to: 

  • expand USC’s geographic footprint;
  • increase smart use of new technologies to enhance the primarily face-to-face USC student experience; and
  • strengthen collaboration with TAFE.

USC now has six Study Locations, four of which have developed since the beginning of the CFP. The new ones are Gympie, South Bank in the Brisbane CBD, North Lakes and Caboolture. Noosa and Dilli Village on Fraser Island are the other two.

USC Gympie has succeeded beyond expectations. There are 170 students enrolled to study at the campus this semester. A wonderful result for the Commonwealth and State governments who have invested in this project and also for a community that is doing it tough in the economic sphere and that traditionally has had very low levels of engagement with education in general and post-secondary education in particular. USC is committed to ramping-up this relationship with the Gympie community and making a difference.

Going to Gympie as part of CFP has driven new capacities at USC. We now have excellent video- conferencing infrastructure and know-how, enabling strong connections between students and staff at Sippy Downs and USC’s Study Locations. Timetabling is more flexible, staff are used to working across locations and students are making smart choices about using more than one location across the years of their programs. This includes progressing degrees at Sippy Downs which began at Gympie or elsewhere.

We are of course breaking new ground in student learning with this building and I am particularly pleased to acknowledge Anne Flynn’s presence here today. USC has a very close relationship with the Commonwealth’s Office of Learning and Teaching (OLT). On the national stage we punch way above our weight with regard to recognition through Citations for excellence in teaching and also in competitive funding for research projects that will progress the Learning and Teaching agenda nationally. The university really values the support we receive from this government agency and their support for us is well demonstrated by their presence here today. This wonderful new building will enhance our capacity to value-add to the mission of the OLT and I know they’ll assist us in making the most of this new facility.

Simulation-based learning is a significant new technology adding to the quality of learning and teaching. Right now, USC has the best facilities for Nursing students in the whole of Australia. Not only are the simulation labs in this building, and at Gympie, better designed, more user-friendly and better appointed than elsewhere, but they are also supported by a nursing and midwifery staff who have wholeheartedly embraced the opportunity provided to them. They are delivering a truly cutting edge program. The quality of this facility and team was illustrated just last month when the American-based SimGhosts organisation, which supports health care simulation technology specialists, held its first annual conference outside of the United States here in the Learning and Teaching Hub at USC. And of course it extends beyond nursing to initiatives like the Immerse Lab that Christian Jones will show you through shortly.

USC’s collaboration with TAFE has been a really important feature of its development over the past few years and this seems likely to continue. It is very satisfying to see the seamlessness that has already developed around the TAFE operation in this building. I think this is exemplified by the fact that the TAFE staff were impatient about moving in and many of the TAFE students indicated they were willing to start their semester early in order to get here faster.

The strategic and financial commitment of TAFE Queensland, through the local institutes, not only made the Collaborative Futures Project possible, but also paved the way for the next big TAFE partnership for USC, that is the connection with TAFE Queensland Brisbane, through what was formerly Southbank Institute of Technology. The trust and good will that has developed through CFP has created opportunities for USC in Brisbane that, if we are clever enough, will advance many of our strategic goals.

Things move rapidly in the higher education sector and, as you can see, the next major building, also supported by the Commonwealth, is already coming out of the ground. This one will contain visualisation resources second to none that, in combination with this building, will provide USC with a world class simulation precinct on this part of the campus.

Of course, this building would not have been realised if it were not for the hard work and dedication of many groups including HASSELL Architects, Badge Constructions, Davis Langdon, the myriad professionals and contractors, and the university’s own teams. I’d like to mention some of these briefly.

HASSELL have produced a stunning building. I remember during the design phases saying we wanted a student focussed building. And the architects took this seriously reviewing the latest in learning space design and engaging students in workshops to outline what they wanted. This was fine but as the building came out of the ground and the internal form became clear I couldn’t help thinking, “This seems very grand. It has the potential to resemble a student resort”, a bit of a worry when the government is concerned about the economy. However, once students moved in and the place started to function, it is clear that although it is indeed a beautiful place, it is extremely functional and students work in here day and night.

Badge Constructions are a very professional team and they maintained good humour despite the myriad random visits we inflicted on them to keep tabs on progress. And of course the building is already an award winner, having snared a prestigious Queensland Master Builders Association award at this year’s QMBA Sunshine Coast Housing and Construction Awards.

The USC cost centres actively involved in the project included: 

Facilities Management, who always do a fantastic job ensuring our new infrastructure is delivered on time, on quality and on budget; 

ITS had the enormous challenge of making sure that when we flicked the switch on the sophisticated technology that drives the place, everything actually worked – and it has; 

Our expectations of Facilities Management and ITS have grown enormously through the creation of this high-tech building; 

As mentioned previously, the Executive Projects Unit, scoped the project and then guided it through to completion keeping an eye on people who wanted to change their minds on the design mid-stream and how much we had to spend on it – Peter Sullivan and Bernard Lillis who were in the PVC-CS role during construction shared this experience as did our DVC Professor Birgit Lohmann; 

C-SALT (Centre for Support and Advancement of Learning and Teaching) were behind many of the technological and design innovations that are a feature of the building. Even quite late in the day I remember asking Kylie Readman if she was sure we didn’t need a 500 seat lecture theatre instead of all these smaller smart-rooms – she was sure! And it functions beautifully; 

Student Life and Learning and the Buranga Centre also had a hand in the design. I’ve had a very personal interest in what we have delivered for the new Buranga Centre. There’s what was needed for the academic requirements of the students but just as importantly, the interests of the Coast’s indigenous community who were actively involved in guiding the form and function of the Buranga Garden where we started today’s event. It’s a work in progress and it’s working.

The students are happy to the extent that they are bringing friends and family onto campus at a rate/level that I haven’t seen in my 10 years here and through AIME we always seem to have Indigenous school kids in the building – Senator McGrath you can take the message back to the PM, Minister Pyne and Senator Scullion that we are making things happen here and that this project is very closely tied to equity and indigenous progress.

I encourage you to enjoy the artwork you see in this building today. John Mainwaring and Gail Cowley are with us today. John has long been involved with USC and is an Honorary Doctor of the University. In 2012 he donated his considerable personal art collection of paintings and prints to the University, thus making it available to the public. You will see many of these pieces as you move around the building today. The donation of the art works and Mr Mainwaring’s own publications about linking art and architecture will continue to contribute to the cultural evolution of the campus. Thank you John.

It also gives me great pleasure to welcome here today Ken Thaiday Senior and his wife Elizabeth who have travelled from Cairns to be with us. Ken is the Artist responsible for the Big Baizam displayed in the cabinet at the base of the main stairs on the ground floor. I welcome the Proost and De Deyne families as well, who generously donated Ken’s work to the University and postponed a trip to Melbourne to celebrate Aime’s birthday to be with us today – Happy Birthday Aime. The Big Baizam forms the Centrepiece for a sub-collection of Torres Strait Island art that complements the University’s Western Desert Art Collection.

I want to sincerely thank our local community for your continued support of USC.

To conclude, I’d like to acknowledge the work done by Noela Burton, Manager of the office of the Vice-Chancellor and President who has had the unenviable task of ensuring we are all here today and enjoying a well organised event – thank you Noela.

And thank you everyone for sharing this significant event with us today.

USC's new Learning and Teaching Hub