Higher Education in the 21st Century – Diversity of Missions: Abstract by Professor John Rickard

 

Central Queensland University: Regional University; Global Perspective – Breaking the traditional higher education model

Professor John Rickard, Vice-Chancellor & President, Central Queensland University, Australia

Central Queensland University (CQU) is a truly unique regional University.

At its core is the provision of higher education to the Central Queensland region – comprising 141,617 square kilometres in the State of Queensland in northeast Australia. It has regional campuses located in the towns of Rockhampton, Mackay, Bundaberg, Gladstone and Emerald. However, unlike many regional Universities, where the home campus is the dominant campus, CQU is different. Its administrative headquarters are located in Rockhampton, and it is a significant provider of flexible and distance learning, which is mostly serviced from Rockhampton. However, more than half of CQU’s business involves servicing international students based at its Australian International Campuses in the major cities of Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney.

2007 marks the 40th anniversary of CQU’s inception as a higher education institution and the 15th anniversary of it becoming an independent University. During this period it has undergone an enormous period of growth, shifting from a teaching-only institution with a distinctly local mission to one that involves a multi-campus, global operation that is dedicated to providing research, teaching and community service which adds value to its stakeholders and to the education of innovative, effective and empathetic leaders for the public, private and non-profit sectors worldwide (CQU Strategic Plan 2007-2011).

CQU’s mission breaks with the traditional model of a higher education institution in Australia. Whilst it is formally recognised as a public institution, almost half of its revenue is generated through the operation of its Australian International Campuses in a joint venture partnership with a private company. This makes CQU a public-private hybrid institution, a categorisation which is not readily addressed or recognised by government legislation and policies, quality agencies and the like.

CQU describes itself as a value-adding institution – it provides tailored and flexible support to its students through a range of activities such as resource-based and online learning materials and individual student mentoring and monitoring of academic progress. CQU students are from a diverse range of backgrounds, including those from non-English speaking backgrounds, low socio-economic status and rural and regional areas.

By its very nature as a public institution CQU must, and will, continue to remain very committed to its Central Queensland region. However, it has recognised that in order to grow, prosper and remain viable, it's been essential to seek alternative sources of income.

This paper will explain in more detail the complex and unique relationship between CQU and its private joint venture partner and expand on the challenges and opportunities presented in operating a higher education institution which clearly does not fit the traditional model.