ACT News

Barr wants to diversify University of Canberra campus revenue and boost the territory economy

UC and the Australian National University are responsible for 4.9 per cent of the $35 billion local economy.

The ACT Government will seek to update laws governing the University of Canberra in 2015 to allow for a greater range of development and business activities, in an attempt to diversify campus revenue and boost the territory economy. 

Chief Minister Andrew Barr and University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker announced the planned changes on Friday after cabinet signed off on the proposal earlier in the week. If completed, the plans would also increase education and research opportunities on campus. 

University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker announces planned changes.
University of Canberra vice-chancellor Stephen Parker announces planned changes. Photo: Rohan Thomson

An accelerated approval process will be provided as the government moves to allow for areas of land held under the UC lease to be subleased for construction and other development. 

Mr Barr has been on the front foot with business announcements since taking over as Chief Minister earlier this month while Professor Parker took a prominent leading role in opposition to the Abbott Government's attempt to deregulate Australia's higher education sector. 

Education Minister Christopher Pyne introduced revised legislation for deregulation before Parliament rose for the summer break and has pledged to push for its passage next year despite a hostile Senate. 

Visiting the campus on Friday, Mr Barr said the planned changes to the University of Canberra Act would bring innovation and entrepreneurial activities as well as "more students, more researchers, more investment and more jobs to the ACT."


The current law will be updated to allow expanded functions, including to allow the provisions of cultural, sporting, professional, technical and vocational services to the ACT community

Plans are underway for a campus-based technology park, aged-care facilities, a private hospital and housing developments which could be linked to course work in research, design, planning and related fields. 

"This builds on the ACT Government's support for the university through the University of Canberra Public Hospital," Mr Barr said.

"The new hospital is a piece of vital health infrastructure and by building it on the University of Canberra campus we are creating new opportunities for students and researchers and making the university an even more attractive study destination.

"It's great to see the vibrancy that new development has brought to the University of Canberra campus in recent years; the updated Act will ensure these changes are just the beginning." 

A Deloitte Access Economics report released on December 2 showed UC and the Australian National University made a combined total economic contribution to the ACT exceeding $1.7 billion in 2012.

Taken together, the two institutions were responsible for 4.9 per cent of the $35 billion local economy, with one in nine Canberrans either a student or staff member.

UC and ANUcontributed 12.6 per cent to the ACT economy through their payroll tax alone - representing $41 million in government payroll tax in 2012.

Mr Barr said maintaining Canberra's reputation as a university destination would be a priority of his government. 

"By supporting the growth of education and research in our city, we are playing to our strengths and cementing Canberra's place as a knowledge capital," Mr Barr said. 

"The University of Canberra is integral to building Canberra's reputation as a smart city, and is a significant contributor economically, socially and culturally to the ACT and the wider region."

Professor Parker remains critical of the federal government's compromise on its deregulation plans.

He said amendments, including new powers for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to study fees and the dumping of planned increases in student loans, were unlikely to win over opponents of the plans on the Senate crossbences.