Saturday, July 08, 2006

Welsman, University of New England and Planning

During the week I received an email from Jennifer Miller, the alumni officer at the University of New England attaching a strategic planning paper for the University.

For those who are interested in a general sense the VC's letter and discussion paper can be accessed through the UNE home-page at or

The discussion paper managed to straddle a number of my current interests.

The paper itself was prepared by Dr Sandra Welsman, one of our own Ndarala professionals with a long interest in higher education as a sector. Our own site carries an earlier article by Sandra - Australian Higher education 2016 - Looking Back- This article explores the changes now taking place in the sector.

Sandra's interest in the general topic is shared by a number of our professionals and has been the subject of a number of internal email chains. However, there is added interest in the UNE case because a dozen of our professionals including me have an involvement with the place totalling more than a 100 years as children of staff members, students, present and former staff and alumni.

Founded as a college of the University of Sydney in 1938, UNE is one of Australia's older tertiary institutions and the first university located outside a capital city. Its establishment and the earlier establishment in 1928 of the Armidale Teachers College were one of the outcomes of the historical processes that I have been tracing through in my blog on the history and culture of Australia's New England - see

Like other tertiary institutions located outside Australia's metro centres, UNE has suffered in recent years from a combination of demographic change, creation of a plethora of rival institutions in both metro and regional areas, constant changes in Government policies and funding and shifts in community attitudes. One of the aims of the planning process is to find the best way of addressing these challenges.

As a collective, we have long been interested in regional development and the promotion of opportunities outside Australia's metro centres. This led to the launch last year of Regional Living Australia - - as a site intended to promote non-metro opportunities including higher education.

So we have a very clearly established interest. However, Sandra's extremely well written paper raised an interesting challenge.

It would seem logical for us to put in a submission to the UNE review given our interest as well as our collective professional knowledge. However, how do we do this without running across Sandra's professional role? What do we do or say if our collective view is different from the necessarily composite view put forward in Sandra's discussion paper? And that seems quite likely on some issues.

Take one simple example. Is UNE a regional university or simply one located in a regional area?

Speaking personally, I have never thought of UNE as regional university in the narrow way the term is used today - it really has become a put down - and hence am uncomfortable with the attachment of that term to the University. Here I have a lot of sympathy with Charles Sturt, a university that has steadfastly refused to classify itself as a regional university on the simple grounds that such a tag is likely to be sudden death to some of its strategic aspirations.

I think that we will probably put in a submission, but have to work through just what we can usefully say first.

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