OpinionUniversity laying foundations for region’s future

IMPACT: Newcastle university’s global reputation as a top research and education provider is inexorably linked to the Hunter and its future. Photo: Max Mason-HubersIn the 1940s and 1950s, the Hunter community championed the establishment of a university to meet the educational needs of the region. It took until 1965 for the independent University of Newcastle (UoN) to begin operations.
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Importantly, community support for the new tertiary institution did not end there, instead continuing for years and even extending to a fundraising campaign in which residents bought bricks to build the university’s Great Hall.

Today, our community should look back in great appreciation of the foresight of our predecessors in establishing what is a leading education and research institution that is recognised globally. Indeed, the contribution of UoN in shaping the prosperity of the Hunter has never been greater.

UoN’s global reputation as a top-tier research and education provider is recognised by the QS World University Ranking 2017-2018, which places UoN in the top 1 per cent of world universities. Further evidence is in the 5000 international students who livein and the 2000 studying offshore. The economic benefit of inbound tourism return to the region flowing from the foreign students is significant. As important is the intangible value delivered by the direct connection and formation of global relationships during and after study.

ANZ’s n Made report released this year looks closely at ’s manufacturing sector and further afield, noting the resurgence in the former manufacturing powerhouses of the US, Japan and the UK was found to be driven by an ongoing investment in hi-tech manufacturing research and development in coordination between academia and the public and private sectors.

This trend is emerging in our region today. In the Upper Hunter, the recent announcement of a $30million project in Muswellbrook to manufacture bio ethanol from traditional agricultural waste products is an example of how collaboration between a tertiary institution, governments and private industry is redefining the local manufacturing sector. For Muswellbrook, this initiative will support its march towards a diversified economy and job creation.

Further south, and key to the revitalisation of Newcastle’s city centre, has been the opening of the NeW Space. The learning centre is bringing more than 3000 students into the city precinct and has delivered an environment that showcases the best of Newcastle.

The UoN is playing a leading role in converting Newcastle’s city centre into a digital precinct and driving forward innovation. It’s a partner of the Hunter Innovation Project (HIP), designed to bring cutting-edge digital infrastructure and forward thinking to fast-track the development of concepts that will provide an economic benefit to the region and industry, including manufacturing. More than this, a key output of the HIP is to add to the city’s ambience by providing public access to wi-fi and smart parking applications, positioning Newcastle as a Smart City.

With such a focus on lifting region’s digital and innovation capabilities,local industries – including advanced manufacturing and the renewable energies sector – will be well placed to reap the benefits, injecting knowledge, technology and creating regional jobs.

UoN has come full circle. From beginning with the community laying its foundations, the university is now building the pillars that will underpin the diversity and prosperity of the Hunter’s economic future.

Paul Cragg is regional executive Newcastle/Hunter Region,ANZ Business Banking