University of New South Wales is planning to build a new $1 billion campus in the heart of Canberra after striking a deal with the ACT government to secure prime blocks of city land - essentially for free.
Chief Minister Andrew Barr and UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs will announce the signing of the "precinct deed" on Thursday, more than two years after the institution unveiled its vision to build a new campus on Constitution Avenue in Reid.
The deal will see the government provide about eight hectares of land, including parts of Reid CIT and the car park opposite, to the university under a peppercorn lease agreement.
In return, UNSW will spend about $1 billion to build a new campus on the inner-city site over the next 15 years.
The government has previously provided ANU and University of Canberra with peppercorn leases for land at their campuses.
UNSW was initially exploring a campus capable of accommodating 10,000 students, but is now planning for 6000 students.
The proposed campus would include teaching and learning spaces, student housing and amenities as well as defence and security "innovation precinct".
In addition to all but gifting the prized land to the university, the ACT government will spend $25 million on the project. Payments would be made at key milestones, including when the ACT signs off on the campus masterplan and the start of construction work.
Mr Barr said the contribution was recognition of the project's potential to inject up to $3 billion into the local economy, as well as deliver social and educational benefits to the city.
The project was also expected to create up to 2000 jobs, he said. The potential benefits were outlined in independent analysis commissioned by the ACT government.
"The new campus will strengthen the city's reputation as the knowledge capital of Australia, and further reinforce the territory's status as a leader in the defence and security industries," Mr Barr said in a statement.
The university will now start six weeks of community consultation to help inform a masterplan for the new campus precinct, which will require both ACT government and National Capital Authority approval.
UNSW Canberra rector professor Michael Frater was hopeful construction work would start early next year, with the first stage earmarked for completion in the second half of 2022, subject to planning approvals.
The campus would be completed in four stages over the 15-year period, he said.
Professor Frater said establishing the city site would allow the university to expand the courses offered at its Australian Defence Force Academy campus.
He said UNSW would take inspiration from world-renowned universities including Stanford, Columbia and Cambridge in designing its innovation hub, which would bring together private companies, academics and government.
Given the relatively small footprint of the city site, professor Frater said it would be a higher density campus than others in Canberra. However, development on the site will be restricted by planning rules which cap building heights at 25 metres along Constitution Avenue.
The ACT government has reiterated that Reid CIT will continue to operate until the training's institute's proposed new Woden campus is built. That project - which could cost up to $250 million - is scheduled for completion in the mid-2020s.
The government wants CIT to retain a presence in the city beyond then, but has yet to determine where or what that might be.