Page 1032 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 24 March 2015

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This clear and open collaboration is even more important for the university in the climate of uncertainty created by the federal Liberal government’s funding cuts and proposals for deregulation of the higher education sector. No-one knows what Christopher Pyne’s next moves will be in relation to higher education and funding arrangements. That is a great uncertainty. In stark contrast, the agreement struck between the University of Canberra and the ACT government gives certainty and recognises the importance of maintaining our open and collaborative partnership.

The silence from the ACT opposition about their federal counterparts’ agenda to slash funding for higher education and research and the impact that would have on Canberra is deafening. (Time expired.)

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Ms Fitzharris.

MS FITZHARRIS: Minister, given the University of Canberra is operating in an—

MADAM SPEAKER: Preamble. There should not be a preamble. I will let you go this once.

MS FITZHARRIS: Thank you, Madam Speaker. Why is it so important to allow the university to unlock the potential of its campus?

MR BARR: The University of Canberra operates in a highly competitive and uncertain higher education environment. They need to be constantly improving their offering to students and, indeed, to researchers. The University of Canberra leadership and the government are determined to make this happen. Prospective students are now able to directly compare courses, teaching facilities and postgraduate career opportunities across universities around this country and around the world in a way that was impossible decades ago.

Australia and Canberra in particular have many advantages that make our universities very attractive to local, interstate and international students. But we cannot be complacent and we cannot assume that no competitors are trying to overtake us. Today’s highly mobile international student population and rapidly rising Asian middle class expect facilities and learning environments that rival the top universities in the United States and Europe.

UC has done a lot with what it has, but now is the time for this university to take a big leap into a whole, connected and fully utilised campus. Just one example is the University of Canberra public hospital, which will give students hands-on healthcare experience in state-of-the-art facilities. That will put the University of Canberra ahead of so many institutions that are offering comparable courses.

MADAM SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Dr Bourke.

DR BOURKE: Minister, how will this agreement enhance Canberra’s reputation as an education city?

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