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University City on the go in Adelaide

By Malcolm King - posted Monday, 12 September 2011


There is no comparison between the Anglo face of Adelaide 30 years ago and today. So many of the new 'residents' in the City of Churches are international students. While Adelaide is not yet an Oxford, Princeton, Leiden or Pisa - these are true university cities - it is heading in the right direction.

These towns have a large influence on the academic, political and cultural lives of their nation. They spawn printing houses, university hospitals and clinics, business incubators, bookshops, socially innovative experiments, accommodation, libraries and academic festivals.

In South Australia, the 'education industry' nets the state more than $1 billion annually and supports more than 6000 jobs. From 2002-2008, international student enrolments in South Australia more than doubled with a growth of 151.7 percent, the largest of any state or territory.

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While growth has flattened recently due to the GFC, changes to visa regulations and the high Australian dollar, Adelaide is still well placed for University City 'lift off'.

The players and the problems

There are some hurdles though. Opposition leader Isobel Redmond's claims that the South Australian public is not getting value for its tax dollar by bringing international universities to Adelaide. In government, she would cut funding to the University City Project (UCP), the local Thinkers in Residence program and the Social Innovation Think Tank.

The new international universities such as Carnegie Mellon and University College London have a C classification and are therefore not deemed research universities. They cannot apply to the Federal Government for research funds. This is a lose-lose scenario when one is trying to build a university city based on research.

Recent news that Kaplan Inc will not proceed with its plans to accredit its courses in partnership with Adelaide University is a significant blow to the UCP. Kaplan had significant bureaucratic difficulties getting its programs accredited in the US. It had planned to start trading this year and it hoped to admit 5000 domestic and international students with many more enrolled online.

Cranfield University closed in 2010. Adelaide University signed an agreement in 2007 with Cranfield with the promise "of major benefits for both organisations and for the South Australian defence industry." Cranfield had focused on a student cohort that was supposed to emerge from South Australia's "booming" defence industries. It never happened.

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Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Adelaide has had more dramas than the Bold and the Beautiful and the Young and the Restless combined. Executive staff changes and the realization that the SA taxpayer won't fund the Victoria Square campus forever, has motivated the American not-for-profit university to lift its game. To survive, it needs to attract full fee local and international students.

Even so, CMU kicked a major goal in 2009 when students created a new mobile phone bus timetable system called 'Sandora' and its Master of Science in Public Policy is one of the best programs of its kind in the world. Recent hires of staff with Asia Pacific marketing experience will boost their numbers.

University College London is the success story of the UCP. Ranked in the top five of the world's best universities, the UCL School of Energy and Resources opened in 2010 and provides specialist teaching and research on energy and resources. It has created strong ties with Santos and BHP Billiton and has sustainable growth in students. Recently UCL and BHP Billiton announced an agreement to establish a $10 million (US) Institute for Sustainable Resources.

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This is an edited version of an article that appeared in Campus Review recently.



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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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