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UC allows five years for world ranking

Date

Emma Macdonald

The University of Canberra will aim to have an international ranking by the year 2018.

The University of Canberra will aim to have an international ranking by the year 2018. Photo: Jeffrey Chan

The University of Canberra will have an international ranking by 2018 and could become one of the country's first universities to share profits with its staff as part of an ambitious five-year plan being announced on Friday by Vice-Chancellor Stephen Parker.

The university's Strategic Plan 2013-2018 also seeks to increase enrolments by nearly 50 per cent to 20,000 by the time the university turns 50 in 2018.

The plan, which was endorsed by the UC Council last week, places a heavy emphasis on research, increasing research income and committing the university to break into the international rankings within five years. Professor Parker said the university was heading in the right direction to achieve a spot on the Times Higher Education top 100 ranking of institutions under the age of 50 by the self-imposed deadline.

Research income per academic rose from $27,777 in 2007 to $45,201 in 2011, placing the university 22nd out of 40 institutions in Australia. With publications per academic, it moved to 19th place in 2011, with 1.3 publications, from 28th position in 2010 with 0.98 publications.

"UC is now performing at the median of Australian universities although it's one of the youngest universities in the country," Professor Parker said. He believed the strategy was ambitious but the university could "credibly aim high".

Friday marks the sixth anniversary of Professor Parker's tenure at the university. Three years into his term he signed another five-year contract, which expires in 2015.

The vice-chancellor said his first strategic plan had been about financial consolidation and student growth, and now it was time to set some challenges. "We are in the strongest position in our history. We are posting an underlying operating surplus. We have more students than ever before. Our research performance is on the rise. Now is the time to work on a bold vision for the future.''

While he conceded the higher education sector was more vulnerable to market forces than ever before, and "has probably already had the highest level of funding we are likely to see", he believed that the universities that would thrive were those "with a strong brand, a clear strategy and the foundation of a sound financial position".

Professor Parker inherited a deficit of $17 million from his predecessor, Roger Dean, which had been turned into a true underlying surplus of $1.5 million last year.

The plan called for increasing competitive research grant income, increasing research citations, increasing international research collaboration and improving the university's reputation internationally for research and teaching.

The University of Canberra will continue to focus on its research and teaching strengths in governance, the environment and communication while backing the emerging strengths of public health, education and community development and sport.

The university suffered a setback late last year when federal Tertiary Education Minister Chris Evans denied a plan for it to set up a branch campus at Holmesglen TAFE in Melbourne, but Professor Parker said demand was strong and 200 Victorian students were accessing a University of Canberra Melbourne degree through distance education.

The university has been invited to reapply for its preferred Holmesglen model next year and Professor Parker was confident TAFE partnerships would be approved, allowing the university to expand into strategic national markets. He was negotiating with four institutions regarding similar partnerships. "We are not afraid of market forces," he said.

Professor Parker was also looking at ways to share future profits with academics and staff. "I have an aspiration to share the proceeds of our growth with the people who commit their careers to us,'' he said.

He was not sure which profit-sharing mechanism would work best in a university setting, given he was unaware of it happening before.

9 comments

  • Before the ANU brigade get in and start launching their usual triade, let me congratulate Stephen Parker on a magnificent job well done in such a short period of time.

    A both a former CCAE and ANU alumni, it is great to see Canberra have two great institutions - when UC achieves it's goal (it's a matter of when, not if) Canberra as a city will be greatly enhanced.

    And for those with a bent to educational history, whilst ranking of non-US universities only have a publication history of around 20-25 years, the tracking of research per-academic data, average entry scores, publications etc has been going on for a long, long time.

    The last Australian university that improved so rapidly (relative to other Australian universities) in the key metrics was... wait for it... ANU.

    I'm cheering on both institutions - what could be better for Canberra than in 20/20 have the top two or two of the top 5 Australian universities right here?

    Go UC!

    Commenter
    John121
    Date and time
    March 01, 2013, 8:56AM
    • As a UC student I can say that a great deal of improvement needs to occur in the quality of teaching at the university before any international ranking will be deserved. It's the Mickey Mouse Club here.

      Commenter
      i'mjustsaying
      Date and time
      March 01, 2013, 10:30AM
      • Teaching isn't important for internationa rankings, it's all about research.

        FYI, in recent rankings rated UC higher than ANU in teaching (2/5 stars at ANU v 4/5 for UC) see: http://www.canberratimes.com.au/national/education/anus-teaching-score-confusing-chief-says-20110817-1wujp.html

        Commenter
        John121
        Date and time
        March 01, 2013, 12:46PM
    • Presumably, the academics would be inclined to make generation of profits a key objective, just as teachers might be inclined to make the generation of NAPLAN scores a key objective.

      Not being a postmodern, market-oriented vice-chancellor, I would be worried about the potential effect on a university's independence, and its research and teaching standards. Shows how out of touch I am.

      Commenter
      Stephen
      Date and time
      March 01, 2013, 10:39AM
      • How is increasing research output and funding and compromising research standards? how does it impact on teaching standards? (bearing in mind that as the ANU experience shows, research ability doesn't always translate into teaching ability).

        Commenter
        John121
        Location
        Singapore
        Date and time
        March 01, 2013, 1:00PM
    • Agree with comment 2. The School of Law is in a real mess. To get a Masters of Law you have to enrol in units from Customs and Excise Centre.

      Commenter
      ZORRO
      Date and time
      March 01, 2013, 11:40AM
      • Rubbish. My son-in-law did his LLM at UC (raduated last year) and didn't take any units from Customs and Excise Centre.

        Besides, the UC Law ATAR has gone us 5 points in two years whilst class size has increased - more than any other ACT/NSW uni over the same period (many have gone down, USYD included).

        Commenter
        John121
        Location
        Singapore
        Date and time
        March 01, 2013, 12:48PM
    • Well, they'd better stop performing like a glorified technical college!

      Commenter
      EUDAIMONIA
      Location
      Kingston
      Date and time
      March 01, 2013, 1:34PM
      • John 121: When UC achieves it's goal (it's a matter of when, not if) Canberra as a city will be greatly enhanced. Perhaps Canberra would be enhanced by UC achieving its goal. I hope Canberra has a Plan B. I am not from the ANU Brigade, as you call it. I am a professor at UC, and I contribute strongly to its scientific research funding and outputs. I believe I have better pulse on its current research and its capability for the future than you do, most likely better than Stephen Parker, who often seems to confuse facts with his fiction. UC as one of the top five universities in Australia, John121? Canberra is truly unique in having two universities in such a small community. UC should strive to have the best university teaching in Australia (pretty easy to do since the standards are so low, good comments i'mnotsaying) and a few targeted research areas that complement undergraduate education. But alas, this is not Professor Parker's plan.

        Commenter
        James
        Location
        Canberra
        Date and time
        March 01, 2013, 6:53PM
        Comments are now closed
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