THINKING of attending the University of Western Sydney next year? Would you like an iPad with that? If you're already there, no steak knives sorry, but you can pick up a $50 gift voucher instead.
It may seem merely a lure to attract the 54,000 students who receive their Australian Tertiary Admission Rank today. But the university says it's part of a long-term strategy to ''engage students within and beyond the traditional classroom''.
Every first-year undergraduate for 2013 and all its academic staff will receive an iPad, retail value $539. It's claimed as the largest rollout of its kind in an Australian university.
Kerri-Lee Krause, the university's pro vice-chancellor (education), says students already at the university will receive a $50 voucher to spend on campus ''as a contribution to say we have not forgotten you''.
In the next three years the university will spend $35 million on 13,000 iPads and other IT initiatives and infrastructure, more than it will spend on bricks and mortar. This shifts its investment focus from the multimillion-dollar building program of the past several years. ''Now we are balancing the bricks with the clicks,'' Professor Krause said.
''I think it is a great idea,'' said Jordan Gechevski, 19, who has an early offer for the bachelor of nursing at UWS's Campbelltown campus. While ''not the most technologically advanced person'', he thought the iPad would be ''a good gadget'' for whatever uses the university planned.
Professor Krause said medical and nursing students would use their iPads for learning on the run in clinical settings, where it gave access to data linked back to web-based information repositories.
Paradoxically the iPad initiative is seen by the university as a way of drawing students to campus. They will be able to access more online and web-streamed material but attend class for high value-added interactive and collaborative face-to-face learning, Professor Krause said.