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Campus News : March 2013
F 2 CONNECT: UOW MARCH 2013 CONNECT: OPINION $2 BILLION CO ifty years ago the Council of the City of Greater Wollongong published Sublime Vision - a coffee table book with a brief history of the city combined with an economic overview and features on the suburbs and selected major companies. While the book is a product of its time, it successfully conveys a 1960s sense of optimism about the city and its innovative industrial base. This was a period with terrific economic momentum and a time when migrants from all over the world settled here because of the opportunities and lifestyle. Post-secondary education features as a peripheral activity with passing references to the Technical College, the Teachers' College, and the university college of the University of New South Wales. The diversified industrial base was the main driver of the economy. This created wealth and employment opportunities irrespective of a worker's entry level skills. All this seemed enduring. Now our regional economy has a very different shape. Our population has grown from about 142,000 in 1962 to over 292,000 by 2010. The services sector is more powerful than in the 1960s. Manufacturing has to focus on high value products. The retail experience has moved to suburban shopping centres from a concentration in the CBD as major centres of population have grown, and now new technology is re-shaping our purchasing behaviour. On top of all this about 17,000 of us travel to work in the City of Greater Sydney each day, and another 13,000 commute elsewhere. One of the biggest transformations has been the evolution of the University of Wollongong, which grew out of that college of UNSW. It is unrecognisable compared to the institution which formally opened its Northfields Avenue campus in 1962. A recently released study of the University's economic contribution illustrates the sheer scale of the impact of the higher education sector in Wollongong. The direct benefits of the University are estimated to exceed $1 billion, the indirect benefits add an additional $1 billion and the knowledge impacts are at least another $1.3 billion. These effects are felt elsewhere in NSW and nationally but the major consequences are here in the Illawarra. All this suggests that the full value-added benefits to the region arising from the University's activities are approaching those of the steel industry at its peak. In Wollongong, the University has created two iconic campuses with sophisticated infrastructure and amenities. In just the last 10 years, the proportion of the Illawarra community with a University degree has doubled. Over 100,000 students have graduated from the University. Many have been first in family to study for a degree. Others have come from all over the world to be educated here. This year the Innovation Campus celebrates its tenth anniversary. This location has generated industrial research links and partnerships which would not have occurred without such a high quality planned location, political commitment and local leadership. To have such a significant campus as part of a research-led university and in proximity to a major international airport has created one of Wollongong's long-term economic assets. In recent years the University has won substantial additional capital funding in the face of steep national competition. Now we have major research centres which are global leaders in, for example, health, material sciences, sustainable construction, infrastructure development and early education. This year the University is launching a new and distinctive initiative that is focused on making a contribution towards solving key global challenges. Under the banner of "Transforming Lives and Regions", this initiative will focus initially on three themes: Manufacturing Innovation; Living Longer, Well; and Sustaining Coastal and Marine Zones. These topics all require significant global investment and new types of partnerships. Novel research on these themes could all deliver significant dividends for the next generation of citizens in Wollongong and the Illawarra. In 50 years Wollongong will still be here but we do need to take coherent action now if we are to underpin and enhance the liveability of the city and region beyond 2063. This challenges us to think about emergent businesses, new industries and new jobs, the skills and training of those entering the workforce, the quality of infrastructure across the region, the connections and mobility of citizens living in the super region of Newcastle, Sydney and Wollongong and the sustainability of all we do. In 1963 the Council of the City of Greater Wollongong had a sublime vision. In the period since then Australia has transformed, our economy is stronger, our jobs have changed and, for many, opportunities expanded. For Wollongong our ambition should be undimmed: A Sublime Vision still. BY VICE-CHANCELLOR PROFESSOR PAUL WELLINGS CBE "Now we have major research centres which are global leaders in, for example, health, material sciences, sustainable construction, infrastructure development and early education." SUBLIME VISION SHINING BRIGHTLY