Canberra University Vice Chancellor Professor Stephen Parker.

Professor Stephen Parker. Photo: Jay Cronan

The University of Canberra will increase its student numbers from 14,000 to 21,000 by 2018 with the help of $26 million in Commonwealth funding which was signed off on Tuesday.

The plan to increase enrolments by nearly 50 per cent over the next six years is part of a number of reforms taking place at UC including broadening its student intake through improved pathways through the University of Canberra College and additional learning support for students who might not otherwise get a place.

UC will also re-design its curriculum, invest in flexible learning technologies and collaborations and partnerships with other tertiary institutions – most notably the partnership with Holmesglen TAFE in Melbourne to create the University of Canberra Melbourne, which will take enrolments from next year.

Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans visited the campus to sign off on the $26 million in Structural Adjustment Funding. The funding was originally approved last year in the lead-up to a merger between UC and the Canberra Institute of Technology, but was put on hold when the CIT resisted the merger.

UC then reapplied and was approved the funding for strategic growth outside of Canberra – although Professor Parker said he was still interested in pursuing closer links with CIT in the future.

It was also the first official duty for ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher since she took over responsibilities for Higher Education and Regional Development earlier this month.

She welcomed the injection of funding, saying "we recognise the importance of education to the ACT economy as the largest non-government export and its importance to our city as a whole."

Professor Parker said the UC was in "the strongest position in its history with more students, more academics and better facilities than we have ever had. Our financial position is sound and our reputation is growing. This Commonwealth investment will help the University of Canberra continue to flourish in an increasingly competitive environment.

"I thank the Commonwealth for supporting the next stage of the University's renewal."

Professor Parker believed the UC's future success would depend on eliminating "the barriers of distance, time and location (to) offer students even more choice and flexibility to further cement our role as Australia's Capital University".

The biggest growth will come through UC College which takes students in a range of preparatory courses for the university and is expected to increase its numbers by more than 300 per cent, from 675 students this year to 2,800 within six years.

The funding also includes building new headquarters for the College on campus to accommodate its growth.

UC also announced a program to help Indigenous high school students realise their academic potential through a partnership with the Aurora Project which will include academic enrichment camps for high school students from across New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia, and a scholarship program including the prominent Charlie Perkins Trust and Roberta Sykes scholarships to study at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

UC indigenous alumni Fiona Peterson – who graduated last year with a Bachelor of Management – was one of 18 students supported by Aurora and the UC last month to travel to Harvard, New York University, Columbia, Oxford and Cambridge to explore future study options.

Ms Peterson is considering applying to undertake an MBA at one of their business schools

Deputy Chancellor Tom Calma said "As both the Deputy Chancellor of the University of Canberra and Trustee of the Charlie Perkins Trust, I am delighted the Commonwealth has supported this great initiative of The Aurora Project and the University of Canberra.

"The academic enrichment project is an exciting initiative which will build the aspirations of our young Indigenous high school students to be all that they can be, ensuring they finish high school with the option of further study at university. In most cases, that's an option their parents never had, and it will open up a world of possibility for the next generation."

The UC has doubled its number of indigenous students from 62 in 2008 to 128 currently.