UNSW gets approval for second Canberra campus

Capital set to become more crowded, as territory government greenlights sixth campus

March 5, 2020
Australian Old Parliament House and New Parliament House, Canberra
Source: iStock

No fewer than six university campuses will vie for market share in Australia’s diminutive capital city, after UNSW Sydney won approval to establish its second Canberra presence.

The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) government has given the green light to the Sydney-based university to establish a research and education campus and a new “defence and security innovation precinct” a stone’s throw from the Canberra central business district. The site is several kilometres from UNSW’s other Canberra site, the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), where the university has been delivering defence-related education for more than 50 years.

The announcement comes three years after UNSW entered into a memorandum of understanding with the territory government to explore a second campus, saying it needed more space after opening up its engineering degrees to students from outside the defence community.

“This new campus will enable us to take the scale and quality of our involvement in Canberra to a new level,” said UNSW vice-chancellor Ian Jacobs.

It will also make Canberra arguably the most tightly contested higher education market in Australia. The city of about 420,000 also hosts two stand-alone institutions – the Australian National University (ANU) and University of Canberra – as well as campuses of the Australian Catholic and Charles Sturt universities.

Denise Bradley’s 2008 Review of Australian Higher Education reported an estimate that stand-alone universities needed population catchments of at least 500,000 to support economic student loads. However, ANU in particular attracts significant numbers of interstate and overseas students.

UNSW Canberra rector Michael Frater said the new Canberra site would allow for expansion of ADFA’s current courses. “The campus is an ideal location for universities, industry and government to collaborate, discover and drive global change,” he said.

Professor Frater said the dedicated innovation precinct would bring together academics, companies, government bodies and community “to develop defence and security capability, talent and technology”.

UNSW hopes to eventually have 6,000 students at the new campus, which will be built in stages. The university has invited community input into the development of the campus master plan.


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