I am here to talk about Tasmania. I might be a little bit Tasmania-centric, but I suppose that’s what I’m paid to do! As I am a proud product of the University of Tasmania, along with many other past and present colleagues from Tasmania who attended the University of Tasmania, that’s my topic today. It’s something I’m proud of, as is the work they do, not only in Tasmania and nationally but also internationally. So I’m going to take this opportunity to talk up some of the fine achievements of that institution.
The University of Tasmania is a relatively old institution. It’s been around since 1890, so it’s been a very big part of my home state’s history. In Tasmania, it has a very recognisable brand. The university has invested heavily in promoting itself and the work it does. Many of us would know that universities around the country often go about their work very quietly, without much fanfare, but the university has made a real thing of promoting the good work it does in an effort to encourage more people to participate in the work it does in its delivery of higher education and its future research projects as well.
In establishing in my contribution today how successful the university has been, I had a look at the University of Tasmania website to satisfy myself of the status that the university has when benchmarked against other universities. On its web page it has a site allocated to rankings. The website says:
The University of Tasmania has continued its sustained climb in high profile international rankings systems this year, confirming its place amongst the best universities in the world.
In the prestigious Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU), the University of Tasmania jumped 13 places to be rated 292nd internationally. This places the University in the top 2% of universities world-wide and reaffirms its reputation as a premier research institution.
I’ll touch on the quality of the research undertaken at what is a relatively small university a little later on. The web page goes on to say:
The QS World University Rankings result of 370 is another leap forward for the University, climbing 7 places and ranking amongst the best in the world for Earth and Marine Sciences and Agriculture and Forestry. Another seven disciplines were highly ranked in the QS Rankings, including Art and Design, Environmental Sciences, Law, Sociology, Education, Medicine and Biological Sciences.
So that’s a bit of a demonstration of how this small university from our small state is doing well amongst bigger and better resourced competitors from across the country but also across the globe. So it is something definitely to be proud of, being a Tasmanian.
The benefits that Tasmania gets from the university can’t be underestimated in terms of the social, educational and cultural outputs that it delivers, and it has a large footprint right across the state. It’s also one of the largest employers in our state, and it accounts for two per cent of the state’s gross state product. The economic contribution from the university is estimated to be around $1.7 billion annually.
The University of Tasmania is a university that has a number of campuses across the state. Tasmania’s population is very regionally dispersed; there are more people living outside the capital city than in it. In recent years the university has made significant attempts to cater to that dispersed population, so we now have a number of regional campuses as well. As a result, we are seeing graduates from each of those campuses being employed in their home communities, outside of the capital, which is a good outcome.
Higher education is a key segment of our local economy. Indeed, it is one of the top exports from our state. On last reports, international students at the University of Tasmania contributed around $200 million to the state economy. But it’s also important to note that each student who moves to Tasmania—those who come from the mainland to study in Tasmania and the international students I just referred to—bring more than just the fees they pay. They pay for accommodation. They eat and drink. They participate in local activities. They bring their families to visit. They participate in our economy in a significant way and generate a great deal of economic activity, which can’t be underestimated. It’s important to point out that there is room for further growth in this part of the economy. We are seeing from many parts of Asia, and other parts of the globe as well, an increased demand and interest being registered in attending the University of Tasmania, and I know that the Tasmanian state government is working very hard to develop a plan to grow the international education exports from our state.
I mentioned earlier that the research outputs from the university are amongst some of the world’s best. We have a $200 million world-class industry research program at the university which capitalises on local industry sectors, including agriculture and aquaculture, forestry and health. There are world leaders in areas such as geology, geography and other such disciplines. There are many academics around the world quoting from papers written by academics from the University of Tasmania, many of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting myself.
Tasmania has an increasing need to grow its economy in the regions. I mentioned before the regional campuses of the University of Tasmania. A key challenge in regional Tasmania is how to encourage particularly the younger members of our community to go on and do things beyond their compulsory education. Only in recent years have we seen high schools extended to year 12. We are the last state or territory in the country to make the education system that way.
If I look back to those who completed year 12 at my school, Marist Regional College in Burnie, very few went on to university or any other sort of higher education, and many struggled to find employment. So, the University of Tasmania’s opening up of its regional campuses, including the Cradle Coast campus, which is based at Burnie on the north-west coast, is one of the ways that the university is reaching into these regional communities and making a concerted effort to engage with the part of the community that could benefit. My mother has only recently completed her PhD at that campus, so it is generating results and benefiting many in the community, particularly in regional Tasmania. It is also having an impact in smaller regional communities on breaking the stigma attached to higher education—that university is for people from big cities, not for people who live in small communities—and I commend the university for their commitment in trying to address that stigma.
The economic activity and support that the university provides to my state is also encapsulated in the amazing number of capital works projects that are being undertaken right across our state. We have in recent years seen the construction of the Menzies Institute for Medical Research, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, down on the Hobart waterfront, and also the restoration of Domain House. The new, amazing-looking student accommodation facility in downtown Hobart also is an incredible addition to the construction works that have been undertaken in Hobart. Having spent a lot of time in that city, in Tasmania, you only have to look at the number of cranes on the skyline to see what the university is doing for jobs in our state. But it doesn’t stop there. There are several works in the pipeline, including the relocation of the Launceston campus of the university, which is moving from the fringes of the city to closer to the centre as part of the Launceston City Deal, which is worth approximately $280 million to the local economy and will help the city integrate better with the university. A point made to me by the outgoing Vice-Chancellor, Peter Rathjen, was that like many university campuses in the UK, for instance, university campuses need to be porous so that communities can integrate and become part of the fabric of that society.
On that, to Peter Rathjen, the outgoing Vice Chancellor, I would like to take this opportunity to commend him. Our loss is the University of Adelaide’s gain. Peter Rathjen has done a lot to not only grow the university, expand its works and assist students in its classrooms and lecture theatres but also to break down the barriers that I mentioned before. All of these reforms and all of this growth have been as a result of his vision, supported by an excellent executive team—a team who were here in the parliament last night. There aren’t many occasions where you can get every single member and senator from Tasmania in one room, unless it is a joint sitting of the houses of parliament. But Peter Rathjen can muster all of us together because, across all party lines, we all support this institution and what it has done for our state. I commend him and his team at the university.