Monday, December 22, 2014

Is it just me or has 2014 been the biggest, busiest, and most remarkable year we’ve had yet? I don’t even know where to begin with a yearly wrap-up!

Surely the 1 July merger with CQ TAFE has been the most profound event of the year. This was a day that not only transformed CQUniversity forever, but the way post-schooling education and training is conducted in Central Queensland. It was also the day we welcomed almost 19,000 TAFE students and 400 incredibly dedicated VET colleagues into the organisation, at the same time becoming the largest regionally-based university in Australia. Let that sink in – we are now the biggest regional uni.

And if the merger itself wasn’t a big enough task, around 20 new VET programs were added to our range of offerings in the post-merger period. The effort that went into this was outstanding. We also saw Study Centres open in Townsville, Charters Towers, Perth and Karratha this year, enabling more students to access an innovative model of supportive Distance Education.

Our stock just continued to rise across all areas of the university, as did our reputation in the sector. We seem to be one of the universities that everyone is watching at the moment, and its easy to understand why. Our numbers are climbing, our course options are expanding, our student satisfaction ratings are heading north, and our graduation ceremonies seem to be getting bigger and bigger. And lets not overlook the work Facilities Management team have been doing on major new buildings & projects all over our footprint.

Our teaching staff have continued to raise the bar of excellence this year. Prof Stephen Colbran, who won this year’s Australian Award for Teaching Excellence in Law, is a great example of the talent we have, but I could just as easily list many others. Likewise in research we’ve seen some great results being produced, and we exceeded our target for total research grants this year. Prof John Rolfe’s involvement in the $31M Tropical Water Quality Hub and Dr Corneel Vandelanotte’s NHMRC funding have been exciting to see, and the outputs of our Early Career Researchers Group this year makes our research future look very exciting indeed. Our international students continue to be a great source of pride, and 2014 was the year we began to see the green shoots of recovery following the downturn in the international market.

Our engagement with Indigenous communities and groups under the leadership of Prof Bronwyn Fredericks has been phenomenal. Today we have more than 1,100 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students at CQUniversity, and this year we saw more Indigenous students cross the graduation stage than any other year - something we should all be proud of. Speaking of graduates, our alumni continue to take the world by storm, and its hard to go past the story of former student Carolyn Hardy who won this year’s Distinguished Alumni Award. And how fantastic was it to see our Engineering students win the national finals of The Big Idea competition with their concept of reusing industrial pallets for emergency housing following natural disasters.

There are so many things that have made 2014 great (and I know I’ve overlooked many), but my favourite moment of the year? Probably watching Dr Louise Byrne steal the show on ABC’s Q&A program as a panellist.

I’d like to thank everybody for their contribution and support this year - I am very proud of what has been achieved. I wish you all a safe and happy Christmas, and a wonderful New Year.

See you all in 2015!


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sydney Events

The events that occurred yesterday and overnight in Sydney’s CBD were simply inconceivable. Like most people this morning I stood in front of the TV utterly dumbfounded that such sadness could ever be visited upon our country.  

The time for questioning “why” will come, but for today our immediate thoughts should be with the victims and their families.  

While it is nearly impossible to make sense out of this tragedy, can I just say how proud I am of the CQUniversity community of staff and students today. I have been watching our University rally around our Sydney-based staff and students with incredible support and comfort. But in particular I am proud of the way the University has rallied around our Muslim staff and students during this time. I cannot imagine what CQUniversity would be like without the rich and vibrant contribution made by this extraordinary group of individuals, and if ever there was a time to let them know this, it is now.  

There is always the risk that events like these could bring out the worst in our communities, opening the doors to hatred and intolerance. But I am overwhelmed by the way CQUniversity – indeed by most of Australia – has rejected this reaction, reaching instead to compassion and understanding. The most beautiful thing I saw this morning was the number of my colleagues tweeting the #Illridewithyou hashtag on Twitter – a simple message supporting Australian Muslims feeling apprehensive about riding on public transport today for fear of reprisal. This reminded me that despite the horrors of overnight, we remain the lucky country.   
I wish all readers of this blog a safe and happy Christmas break with your loved ones.


Friday, October 24, 2014

CQUni champions of science

I was delighted back in early September when our fantastic agriculture Professor Dave Swain was awarded with a Queensland Government Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts, Science Champion Award for his ground breaking work in precision livestock management and his collaboration with industry.

Now in the last week two more CQUni researchers were recognised with the same award and once again it was for agriculture related research. Professor Phil Brown and Dr Talitha Best who are both located at the Bundaberg campus are conducting research that looks into the relationship between horticultural production systems and consumer psychology. They are working directly with local agribusiness stakeholders to take a fresh look at the horticultural value chain – from soil to supermarket – to improve yields and understand barriers industry innovation, and grower and consumer motivations. Once again a great example of CQUniversity and our researchers working directly with communities and industry to develop research that is relevant to local issues and needs.

CQUniversity is a leader in agricultural research – and now a leader in these awards with three science champions out of the nine awarded going to CQUni (the most for a Queensland university). Agricultural research it is so important to the central Queensland region and I am extremely proud to be working with true innovators in this area. Congratulations Dave, Phil and Talitha! This recognition is well deserved.

Professor Dave Swain accepts his award from QLD MP Ian Walker

Professor Phil Brown and Dr Talitha Best accept their awards from Minister Walker this week

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A week in the life of a regional university VC

CQUniversity is proud of its history as a regional university. Our foundations are firmly planted in central Queensland but in the last two decades CQUni has identified opportunities to serve students and communities in other regions. Initially this drive saw the University establish campuses in other major CQ centres, followed by the establishment of campuses in the three major cities on Australia’s east coast to attract a growing international student cohort.

Now following the establishment of a campus and research institute in Adelaide and distance education study centres and hubs in Cairns, Cannonvale, Charters Towers and Townsville, CQUniversity has the biggest geographical footprint of any Australian university. Nobody said a model like this would be easy but no one disputed the benefits and opportunities either.

Currently we have 20 locations across the nation, with a view to open two more in Western Australia by the end of the year. As well as the obvious benefit of delivering services and facilities to help our many distance education students, a physical presence in so many places means we are working directly with communities and giving people the chance to get in touch with tertiary education and training.

It’s great being able to serve so many communities and students and it’s especially great to hear from distance students who say their lives have been made so much easier by having access to high-speed, free internet, when they need it, so that they can attend online lectures and research their assessments.

As the VC of such a far reaching university it does however mean that I’m never in the one place too long. While I’m based in Rockhampton I don’t think I have spent an entire week here all year (albeit it has been a busier year than usual as a result of our merger with CQ TAFE). Most weeks I’m out on the road working from all our locations and getting to know our people whether it be at a student forum, a graduation, alumni event, program launch or building opening.

Opening the Townsville Study Centre with Mayor Cr Jenny Hill

Last week was a classic example of this. I started off in Rockhampton before traveling to Charters Towers (via Townsville) to open our Charters Towers Study Hub at the Dalrymple Trades Training Centre on Thursday, drove back to Townsville for the opening of our Distance Education Study Centre there on Friday, boarded a flight back to Rockhampton to attend the opening of the CQU Creates art exhibition that night, then travelled to Mackay on Saturday for the Central Queensland Conservatorium of Music’s 25th Anniversary gala concert before coming back to Rocky on Sunday for the launch of a Community Cabinet meeting at our Yeppoon study centre on Monday.  

Admiring Professor Owen Nevin's photographic entry at CQU Creates

It might sound exhausting but I really think I have one of the best jobs out there. Everyday I’m meeting new people and sharing the CQUni story with anyone who’ll listen. 

Welcoming MPs to the Yeppoon study centre before Community Cabinet

Friday, August 22, 2014

Go Taipans

This week it was a great honour to represent CQUniversity as we announced our new naming rights sponsorship agreement with the Cains Taipans.

For the past few years we have partnered with the Taipans by way of the CQUniversity Taipans Academy. This is a great initiative that helps to develop the sporting and professional careers of talented young basketball players. Our partnership with the Taipans Academy has allowed some members to play professionally with the Taipans and has also attracted some to explore study opportunities at CQUniversity.
One such player is Shaun Bruce. Shaun progressed through the Academy and is now playing professionally. On top of this, he is also studying a Bachelor of Exercise and Sports Science with CQUni and is due to complete his program at the end of the year. As part of the naming rights sponsorship deal we also look forward to continuing our involvement with the Academy over the next season, with a view to foster more interest in higher education among members of the Taipans Academy, so they too can achieve what Shaun has been able to.

While a university might not necessarily seem like an obvious choice to sponsor a sporting team I’m thrilled that CQUniversity was given this opportunity. In fact CQUniversity has a proud history of showing support for sport and sporting teams in central Queensland and further afield and now it’s wonderful to get behind a North Queensland team and support the NBL. What’s more following our announcement to staff and students earlier in the week I received a lot of positive feedback about the partnership. One response in particular, from a student studying in Bundaberg, really jumped out at me - originally from Cairns she was delighted to hear that her university was now sponsoring her basketball team.
Going forward I believe that this sponsorship deal will allow CQUniversity to do a lot more within the local community, not just in Cairns but in other regions as well. It’s also great to have the Taipans and their supporters behind us as we plan further expansion in Far North Queensland as the demand for our programs grows.
I’ve got a great feeling that this is going to be a really good season for the CQUniversity Cairns Taipans and can’t wait for the first game of the season to get underway in October. Go Taipans! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

A more comprehensive future just days away

The time has finally come for all of us at CQUniversity to usher in a new era in education and training. Today is the last day of the last week before the University undergoes the most significant change in its history. On Tuesday the long awaited merger with CQ TAFE will become official and a more comprehensive university will be born, paving the way for a smarter more innovative approach to education and training in the region.

Tuesday, 1 July will be a day of celebration and every CQUni campus across Australia will mark this date and join in. While most of the benefit will be felt directly within the CQ footprint itself, there will be a flow on effect beyond the region with students able to explore many new opportunities and study pathways, regardless of their location.

Going forward students won’t just come to CQUniversity to complete a degree, students will come to us to complete enabling programs that will provide them with the skills and confidence to go on to further study, they will come to us to complete trade certificates, diplomas and short courses, and they will come to study degrees fresh from leaving school or to enrol in postgraduate study to take their career further. They will also come to us to up-skill, gaining specialised qualifications in  their area of expertise or to set the foundations to embark on a career change.

What’s more at any point in time during their study journey they will be able to seamlessly transition between different levels of study – for example engineering students might elect to complete a welding qualification on top of their degree or a sports science student might take up a fitness qualification in their first year of study allowing them to work in the industry while they are studying. Likewise, graduates might come back to study VET programs to further expand on their skills and knowledge in a particular area.

It is because of this new approach to education and training that our region can look forward to having much needed childcare professionals, engineers, scientists, midwives, enrolled nurses, tradespeople, service providers, community workers and allied health professions. Delivering skills and knowledge to these professionals will boost our local economy and build not just our region but others like ours, both here in Australia and overseas.

The merger between CQ TAFE and CQUniversity is a first for Queensland and each and every one of us that call central Queensland home, or who are a part of the CQUniversity and CQ TAFE community should feel very proud to be involved in this revolutionary approach.

On top of this I think the fact a regional university is taking a lead with this approach in Queensland is something very exciting!

Finally, between now and Tuesday there is still a lot of work being done behind the scenes to ensure a smooth transition, things like merging data between systems and getting all new systems up and running, welcoming 400 plus staff from TAFE, unifying programs and courses, building new state-of-the-art infrastructure, and getting the message out about how we are making this change for the better. I’d therefore like to acknowledge the hard work and dedication shown by so many staff across both organisations, during the merger transition process. Getting to this milestone would have simply not been possible without so many great people behind the cause.

Be sure to check my blog again next week for more updates on the merger!

Friday, April 11, 2014


Each year Universities Australia delivers a great campaign to raise awareness about the importance of our universities. This year’s campaign is no different: it’s got great creative, a moving, quirky animation, and a good presence on social media.

But besides the creative elements the important part of this campaign is reinforcing that all of us need to work together to ensure our universities don’t get left behind the rest of the world. More to the point the campaign highlights that if our universities get left behind so too does our nation.

I think for most people,  universities are seen as a place of learning, somewhere to gain a qualification. I think many people don’t actually understand that as well as performing this vital function in society universities are also an industry, and like any industry require investment and continuous innovation to ensure they remain competitive and relevant in not just a national sector but a global marketplace.

Let’s take a look at the facts:

  • Australian university graduates are worth $188b to our economy (that’s annually).
  •  Australian universities employ 110,000 staff and contribute $23b to national GDP.
  • International education is Australia’s biggest non-resource export.
  • Universities provide opportunities for a generation of young people – equipping them with the knowledge and skills required for the future of our nation!

What’s more, regional universities (just like CQUni) employ 10,000 people nationally and are often the biggest employer in their local area. They contribute $2 billion to regional economies and work with regional industry and business on research projects to help them stay competitive.

It all sounds pretty important doesn’t it? These facts make universities seem like thriving businesses in a multi-billion dollar industry. Yet, more needs to be done to not just protect our universities but grow them and make them more relevant on the global stage. When we see so many other industries struggling or worse yet exiting Australia full stop, it’s never been more important to secure the future of those industries that are still strong! However, in terms of investment Australia is not keeping pace with the rest of the developed world. The potential for global success is there but much more needs to be done to invest in not just the education sector but so too research and development.

Research has shown 88 per cent of families aspire for their children to go to university, yet in 10 years’ time there could be a shortfall of 280,000 people with tertiary qualifications needed for our economy. For my mind investing in universities is the smartest investment we can make in our nation’s future.

We all need to get behind our universities and keep them strong. To learn more please visit and sign the petition. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Hitting the road to share a more comprehensive approach

The Chancellor and I had a wonderful week last week visiting Gladstone, Mackay Emerald and Rockhampton as part of our comprehensive roadshows. It was great catching up with staff from both CQUniversity and CQ TAFE to answer questions and provide the latest updates on our merger.

Time is flying by as we approach 1 July and I’d like to congratulate all the CQUni and CQ TAFE staff  who have been working together seamlessly over the past seven months to make the transition as smooth as possible. It’s so impressive to see our project teams, made up of staff from both institutions, working side-by-side - for them they are already part of the one team.

Once the merger between CQUniversity and CQ TAFE is complete, our newly merged organisation will have one of the largest footprints of any tertiary education institution in Australia. This is something we can all be very proud of and excited about. We are part of something really special – something that will change the face of education and training in our region and beyond.

Another exciting milestone our colleagues at CQ TAFE are celebrating this year is their institution’s 125th anniversary.  I’m absolutely delighted to think that CQUniversity is about to merge with an institution that has such a long and rich history – without a doubt CQ TAFE has played a major role in making Central Queensland what it is today.

We will build on this wonderful tradition and continue to ensure that the newly merged institution plays an equally vital role in our local communities.

As a merged institution I want CQUniversity to lead the way in delivering education and training. CQUniversity will stand out in the crowd because we will offer students more comprehensive choices. We will be the only Queensland university that allows our students to seamlessly transition between awards, providing them with added value in their education and giving them an edge over others when they graduate. For example our engineering students may choose to also pick up various trade qualifications during their degree – how many electrical engineers graduating from other universities might also be qualified electricians? How many mechanical engineers might also have welding qualifications? That might just be the edge employers and graduates are looking for.

What’s more, many of our students will be able to pick up an award after their first year of study and gain part-time employment in their chosen field while completing their degree. In the coming years many of our education and nursing graduates will have already been working in their chosen field, in some capacity, for two years or more, before they even graduate. That type of experience will obviously place them ahead of the pack when applying for graduate roles.

Being a more comprehensive university isn’t just about being a place to study, but being a place that allows people to discover more opportunities, giving themselves the very best chance to be exactly what they want to be.

I’m really glad I had the chance to get out last week and spread the comprehensive message to staff. I look forward to continuing this journey long after 1 July, spreading the message loud and clear to everyone. 

The Chancellor addresses staff at the roadshow

Monday, March 24, 2014

Engagement, innovation and power of place guides CQUni agricultural research

CQUniversity is a regional university and proud to be so. Even though we have campuses spread far and wide, central Queensland is where our foundation lies. Like many regional universities we face challenges that our counterparts in metropolitan areas do not. However, our geography also delivers many and varied opportunities to engage, give-back to regional, rural and remote communities, and collaborate with stakeholders to understand our unique power of place.

The Central Queensland region – stretching from Hervey Bay to the Whitsundays, is a melting pot of diverse primary industry, the true ‘food bowl of Australia’. This region produces livestock, food crops, forestry and fisheries. In fact did you know that the Bundaberg region in particular produces 90 per cent of Australia’s sweet potatoes? That is a lot of sweet potato! In fact the region produces 21 different crops from vegetables to nuts and even blueberries, and horticulture crop production exceeds $500 million per year.

It is obvious when flying in to Bundaberg and seeing the patchwork landscape beneath that the region is a horticultural powerhouse yet these statistics blew me away. It leaves you to wonder what our supermarkets and refrigerators would look like if such food production wasn't taking place.

That is why our ‘power of place’ in this region is so vital. This engagement and collaboration are key drivers in allowing us to be a university that responds to local demand and informs many of our key research areas. To put the spotlight on our region and showcase the importance of local, smart and sustainable food production for not just the current generations but those to follow.

CQUniversity is not only well placed geographically to do this but also scientifically. Our research is world class and it was confirmed as such in the 2012 Australian Research Council Excellence in Research Australia (ERA) rankings, our agricultural research is rated at a five – meaning it is classed well above world standard.

I firmly believe one of the reasons behind this achievement is the high level of engagement with key stakeholders in this area. Working hand in hand with people who live and breathe agriculture on a daily basis means our researchers better understand the challenges. This thorough understanding means our researchers are well informed about finding the right solutions and conducting research that will bring about answers and deliver tangible long term benefits.

This work will not only help our primary producers but will pave the way for future innovation. Most importantly this research will go a long way to ensuring that agriculture continues to be a strong and enduring industry in Australia – especially when we see so many industries failing because of changed operating conditions and a failure to keep up with innovation and a global marketplace.

More so than ever before universities have an important role to play in the future of Australia’s economy by conducting research that applies to industry, with the specific intention of finding innovative, sustainable and simple solutions to complex economic, social and environmental challenges.

CQUniversity’s research agenda is focusing on exactly that, with agricultural research being completely ahead of the game. I’ll no doubt be bringing you further updates about this exciting area in the months to come but in the meantime why not have a look at some of our research stories just from the beginning of this year.

Poultry to play part in locking up carbon, boosting soil quality

Growers could snap up better harvest data thanks to ute-mounted camera

Squeezing more value out of Aussie fruit and veges